Greece: fires around Athens have “more than 20 dead”

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The violent fires that ravaged Monday around Athens have caused “more than 20 deaths” and “more than 104 wounded,” said the night the spokesman of the Greek government, Dimitris Tzanakopoulos. 

Most of the victims were trapped in the seaside resort area of ​​Mati, 40 km north-east of Athens, “at home or in their cars,” he said in a televised message. 

Eleven of the wounded are in serious condition, while 16 are children, he said.

“With the advance of the relief, we risk to discover new victims, the night will be long,” had previously worried a head of the press service of firefighters, while the balance sheet was still nine dead.

Shortly before midnight, an AFP photographer first discovered three and then a fourth body, all carbonized, under a car and a motorcycle in Mati, close to the port.

The authorities continued the search for victims and the evacuation of the victims, said Tzanakopoulos.

Nine coastal patrol boats, two military buildings and “dozens of private boats” assisted by army helicopters were mobilized to evacuate residents of Rafina harbor, near Mati, residents and tourists who fled the flames on beaches and sea, he said.

The survivors were transferred to hotels and military camps, while many concerned relatives flocked to Rafina.

In view of the situation, the Presidency of the Republic canceled the annual reception scheduled for Tuesday to commemorate the restoration of democracy in Greece in July 1974.

European reinforcements

Tzanakopoulos also announced that Spain would send planes, and Cyprus a team of 60 firefighters. Greece has activated the European Civil Protection Mechanism to get help from its partners. 

“It’s time to fight against the flames,” Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had said before, facing the tragedy as he was about to celebrate, in August, the exit of Greece’s loans. EU and IMF since 2010 in exchange for painful austerity.

According to Mr. Tsipras, “more than 600” firefighters were deployed on the three fronts left during the day, two of which continued to advance in the night around Mati and some 55 km west of the capital, near the locality of Kinetta, along the highway leading to the Corinth Canal.

According to General Secretary for Civil Protection Yannis Kapakis, fires have been fanned by winds up to 100 km / h, an “extreme situation”.

Mr. Tsipras cut short a trip to Mostar, Bosnia, to return to the capital.

“If I had not left, I would have burned,” said Maria, a 67-year-old retiree living in Mati. Joined by AFP on the phone, she said she had to leave her two dogs to flee in time.

AFP

American drone

Above Kinetta, the fire also burned homes and cars. Three housing estates were evacuated and the municipality opened premises to accommodate their inhabitants.

The affected areas were covered throughout the day by thick clouds of smoke, also covering the skies over the capital, while road traffic and power supply were disrupted.

The prime minister said he was “concerned about the outbreak of these homes in parallel”, suggesting criminal action.

The United States will make available to the authorities a drone, which will be deployed on Tuesday in the skies of Athens, “to identify any suspicious action,” said Tzanakopoulos.

The fires took place as a heatwave hit the country, with temperatures climbing to 40 degrees Celsius. According to the weather services, the conditions must remain difficult Tuesday.

Forest fires and maquis are recurrent in Greece in summer, especially in the green areas surrounding the capital. The last most devastating fires killed in 2007 in the Peloponnese and on the island of Evia 77 people, ravaging 250 000 hectares of forests, bush and crops.

 

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