At least 74 people have died in Greece from the twin fires raging through the country’s forestland. Scores of victims fled to the sea on the clogged roadways in a desperate attempt to outrun the ever-spreading inferno.
Over 180 people including about 23 children are injured. The Spanish government sent two amphibious planes to battle the blazes according to the Associated Press.
The fires started about 5 p.m. local time on the 23rd. They burned wildly on either side of Athens, the Greek capital. The flames had no bias, burning cars and farms as well as the forests and whatever else it found along its path. A multitude of people raced to the beaches to catch rescue boats.
Tuesday saw the death toll reach the 74 according to fire officials. 71 of the over 160 adults injured received hospitalization, at least 10 of them needed intubation.
A group of 130 Armed Forces personnel and firefighters made up a search-and-rescue team. The group searched the areas of Voutsa, Mati, and Rafina that the fire hit the hardest, looking for victims.
Greek Interior Minister Panos Skourletis called the fires not only a national tragedy but also a biblical disaster with the loss of human life.
The Coast Guard rescued over 700 people.
The fires began in the middle of Greece’s heat wave. Temperatures on Monday reached 99 degrees Farenheight for the second day in a row.
Alexis Tsipras, the Prime Minister of Greece, declared a time of national mourning. The three days of mourning Tsipras called for should be filled with courage, unity and of course solidarity according to the Prime Minister.
Although nearby, Athens remained unscathed from the flames. None of the famous ancient ruins around the area came close to danger.
Evacuees Tell Their Story and Foreign Aid for Greece is Offered
The Stavrinidis family grabbed what they could from their Mati area summer home by Ravina and ran for their lives.
They described the escape mentioning the rapid advance of the fire and the indescribable wind that tore at them as they ran. It was a unique experience unlike any other for the Stavrinidis and many others.
Other evacuees joined the family in the sea, trapped between the sea and burning forests. Nikos Stavrinidis said some even drowned in the water. He mentioned the wind again and the force of the currents that began taking the people away from the coast. No one could see anything obscured by the smoke as the fires burned.
Turkey also offered to provide aid which includes airlifts to Greece. While Tsipras thanked Mevlut Cavusoglu, his Turkish counterpart, he said the assistance wasn’t yet required.
Turkey’s agriculture and forestry minister said planes to help with the fire are 45 minutes away and are ready to intervene as soon as Greece requests their aid.