Greece declares state of emergency as at least 50 die in wildfires

Greece declares state of emergency as at least 50 die in wildfires

Greece declares state of emergency as at least 50 die in wildfires

"They had tried to find an escape route but unfortunately these people and their kids didn't make it in time".

"Mati doesn't even exist as a settlement anymore", one woman was quoted by Reuters as telling Greece's Skai TV.

The spokesman, who spoke to the Associated Press Thursday on customary condition of anonymity, said the tourist was among a larger group staying at an area hotel that was ordered evacuated to the nearby sea as the flames approached.

Coast guard vessels and other boats rescued nearly 700 people who had managed to get to the shoreline and plucked another 19 survivors and four dead bodies from the sea, the coast guard said.

Dramatic video posted on social media showed damaged buildings, orange smoke-filled skies, and people fleeing the fires by vehicle. "Of the homes for the kids, one of them was destroyed and another one was damaged", Kontakos said. Trapped between the sea and the burning forests, Stravrinidis said, people drowned in the water.

Dozens of rescue workers searching a cliffside in the seaside town of Mati found more human remains. Authorities urged people in the path of the flames to get out while they can.

Mati is in the Rafina region which is a popular retreat with local tourists, particularly pensioners and children at holiday camps.

Outside the coroner's service in Athens, the mood was grim as relatives of victims arrived to submit information and blood samples which could assist identifications.

Some parts of Mati were still smoldering white smoke early on Tuesday. Burnt cars were scattered outside gated compounds where three and four-storey buildings bore signs of fire damage.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras cut short a visit to Bosnia on Monday and returned to Athens to preside over an emergency-response meeting.

A damaged building in the village of Mati
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images A damaged building in the village of Mati

Several European countries including France, Italy and Germany have sent planes, trucks and firefighters to help tackle the blazes in Sweden, where usual summer temperatures are closer to 23 Celsius. "But as we went further, there was a lot of wind and a lot of currents and it started taking us away from the coast", he said.

She said her sympathies and heart went out to his family at this time.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted Tuesday that the EU "will spare no effort to help Greece and the Greek people".

In a statement, Mr Coveney added: "Sending our condolences and solidarity to the family and friends of Brian O'Callaghan-Westropp and to all those who died and suffered from the wild fires in and around Mati".

Fire service spokesperson Stavroula Maliri raised the overall death toll on Tuesday to 74 from an earlier count of 60.

Authorities said they would be making use of an unmanned drone from the United States on Tuesday to monitor and track any suspicious activity.

USA military officials told The Associated Press Wednesday that they had been helping Greece gather images of the fire-ravaged areas with combat drones and Navy surveillance aircraft.

Fires are a common problem in Greece during the summer and can be major killers. It was not immediately clear what ignited the fires.

Flames rise as a wildfire burns in the town of Rafina, near Athens.

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