Scores dead as Greece hit by massive wildfires

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 25, 2018 09:35

Scores dead as Greece hit by massive wildfires

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  • Albanian citizens were also among the victims of the wildfires, which also damaged structures, disrupted major transport links and sent people fleeing their homes.

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TIRANA, July 25 – The deadliest wildfires Greece has seen for over a decade swept over the Attica region on Monday, causing 80 confirmed victims and 187 injured people — numbers that keep growing, along with the scores of those missing, as the search continues.

The death toll significantly rose on Tuesday, when a group of 26 bodies were found in the harbor town of Rafina, according to Greek Red Cross workers’ reports.

The victims were found in a group, in a final attempt to protect themselves from the advancing flames. Among them were mothers and children.

“They had tried to find an escape route but unfortunately these people and their kids didn’t make it in time. Instinctively, seeing the end nearing, they embraced,” Nikos Economopoulos, head of Greece’s Red Cross, said.

Mayor of Rafina Evangelos Bournous told international media the dead could exceed 100, as some of the missing might have died.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras declared three days of national mourning for the wildfires that also damaged structures, disrupted major transport links and sent people fleeing their homes.

Caused by high temperatures and high winds of up to 100 km/h, Greece’s fire brigade notified the intensity and spread of the wildfire in the coastal village of Mati slowed down on Tuesday, as the winds died down.

However, the situation is still not completely under control and the fire department has urged residents to report missing friends and relatives, while authorities are still looking for dozens of people. There is still no formal count of the missing.

Areas unreachable on Monday due to the wildfire’s intensity became accessible to firefights on Tuesday, uncovering lines of burned-down cars and charred fields with small fires still running.

Fire brigade spokeswoman Stavroula Maliri said that “residents and visitors could not escape in time although they were a few meters from the sea or in their homes.”

A six-month-old baby was reported from officials to be one of the youngest victims from the main wildfire, while another smaller fire broke out also on Monday in a forest near the coastal area of Kineta.

People are seen as a wildfire burns in Mati

 

SOS Alert

A state of emergency was declared in the metropolitan area of Athens, while Tsipras cut short a visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina to return to Greece.

Tsipras said what Greece is dealing with at the moment is “completely asymmetric.”

The government said it needed air and land assets from European Union partners, a call to which Cyprus and Spain were among the first to address.

Authorities also said on Tuesday they’d be making use of a US drone to monitor and track suspicious activity.

The Greek government also announced a full list of measures to ease the damages suffered by those affected by the fire, including monetary subsidies and a number of other strategies.

Although Tsipras and other officials have denied that several major fires broke out at the same time, citizens have still blamed the government for lacking a proper emergency plan and cutting down on operational costs.

The fires in Mati were by far Greece’s worst since flames devastated the southern Peloponnese peninsula in August 2007, killing scores.  

Albanians among Greek wildfire tragedy victims

A number of local media sources have reported from correspondents at least one Albanian victim and two missing persons during the ongoing search at the wake of the wildfire.

The Albanian Embassy to Greece has only confirmed three injured Albanian nationals, while correspondents in Athens have reported two missing Albanian women, employed at a tavern, three injured, among whom children and one victim – Nica Leka, from Saranda.

Two Polish and three Danish victims have also been confirmed by international media, drowned in their efforts to escape the fire by getting into the sea, while on Thursday an Irishmen who was spending his honeymoon in Greece was also confirmed among the victims.

The Albanian government, in line with a number of EU states, offered Greece a monetary assistance of 100,000 euros, taken from the state’s reserve budget for the rehabilitation of damages caused by the wildfire.

Along Prime Minister Edi Rama’s signature, the donation was authorized by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Finances.

“Albania feels especially close to neighboring Greece at this tragic time for all those who lost their relatives and are facing the devastating results of a crazed fire. The Albanian government just approved a donation in solidarity to our brothers and sisters,” Prime Minister Edi Rama wrote in a Facebook statement.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 25, 2018 09:35