Greece wildfires: 74 dead in ‘unspeakable tragedy’

Sky News:–  At least 74 people have been killed as wildfires rage in Greece.

Among those to die were 26 people found huddled together near a beach.

They are believed to be families who were fleeing the inferno – some were hugging when they were found.

The Greek fire brigade confirmed the rising death toll after fires, which began on Monday, destroyed seaside resorts near Athens, in the towns of Mati and Rafina to the east of the city and Kineta to the west.

A spokeswoman for the fire service, Stavroula Malliri, said a further 164 adults and 23 children were still being treated in hospital for their injuries.

Ms Malliri said gale-force winds frequently changing direction caused the fire to spread with speed, leaving a trail of destruction behind.

Many of those escaping the flames and smoke – including tourists – fled to the coastline for safety.

The coastguard said 19 people were found at sea and rescued while 696 people were picked up from beaches and the coastline by boat.

A Polish woman and her son were reportedly among 10 people who drowned when a boat capsized during an evacuation.

Janusz Smigielski, deputy head of Polish travel agent Grecos, said the pair were on holiday in Mati when they were caught up in the wildfires.

Speaking on Greek television, Prime minister Alexis Tsipras declared a period of mourning in Greece.

“The country is going through an unspeakable tragedy,” he said.

“Today, Greece is mourning and we are declaring three days of national mourning in the memory of those who perished.”

A state of emergency was also declared as Greece requested assistance from the EU.

More than 600 firefighters have been involved in the effort to tackle the flames, with Germany, Spain, Croatia and Italy among those offering support and firefighting planes.

Evangelos Bournous, mayor of the Rafina-Pikermi area, said he saw “at least 100 homes in flames”, adding: “I saw it with my eyes – it is a real total catastrophe.”

Senior firefighter Achilleas Tzouvaras said crews were tackling “an extreme situation”.

Mati resident Kostas Laganos said he was reminded of the volcanic eruption of Pompeii.

He told Sky News: “Thankfully the sea was there and we went into the sea because the flames were chasing us all the way to the water.

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