Forest fire near a home in Greece.
24 Jul 2018

50 dead in the most devastating forest fires in Greece in a decade


50 people have died in the worst forest fires in Greece in a decade, the Guardian reports.Hundreds of homes have been destroyed, highways are closed and residents are ordered to flee for their lives.

"This is an extreme situation," says fire chief Achillea Tzouvaras.

At least 50 people have died since two forest fires have been burning uncontrollably on either side of Greece's capital, Athens, reports the Guardian.

The fires are the worst in a decade. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed and roads had to be shut down.

According to the Red Cross volunteers and local authorities, 26 bodies have been found near a popular beach in Mati, near a beach restaurant. People should have tried swimming from their homes nearby but not managed.

"Unfortunately, we found 26 burned bodies between two homes," said Nicos Economopoulos, chief of the Greek Red Cross to Greek state television, Reuters said.

Thus, the number of deaths is at least 50 people, previously 24 people have been confirmed to be killed in the fires in the city of Mati, just 30 kilometer east of the capital.

Mati has been severely affected by the fire that began at five in the afternoon and since then quickly spread. The coast guard has sent out a patrol to rescue people who have been cut off by the fire on a beach.

The first fire broke out in a pine forest near the coastal town of Kineta, located 50 kilometers west of Athens, reports the Associated Press.

At least 150 firemen have fought the fire, and also five aircraft and seven helicopters have participated in the extinguishing work.

The smoke has been so thick that the highways between the Peloponnese peninsula and the rest of the mainland have been closed.

Many people are also missing, including four Danish tourists. At least 56 people have allegedly been injured in the fires, states the Greek authorities, who also confirm another three deaths.

"We are doing everything in our human power to defeat these fires," said Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in a statement.

- You should just lock and leave your homes. You can not handle this much smoke for so many hours. This is an extreme situation, says fire chief Achillea Tzouvaras.

The second fire broke out later on Monday afternoon in the Penteli area north-east of the capital, and continued to spread to the city of Rafina.

At least three aircraft and one helicopter have fought against the fire along with about 50 firemen.

- I saw at least 100 burning homes. I saw it with my own eyes, it is a total disaster, says Evangelos Bournous, mayor of Rafina.