Published: Sat, July 28, 2018
World | By Camille Rivera

Arson Suspected in Deadly Greece Wildfires

Arson Suspected in Deadly Greece Wildfires

Greece's defense minister on Thursday said illegal construction contributed to the devastating wildfires that have so far claimed at least 82 lives, with officials fearing that the death toll will climb, according to a report.

The first fire started in the Geraneia mountains near Kineta, prompting three villages to be evacuated.

Fueled by 80 kph (50 mph) winds that frequently changed direction, the fires - one to the west of Athens near the town of Kineta and another to the northeast near the port of Rafina - spread at speeds that surprised many, trapping hundreds on beaches and cutting off escape routes.

The bodies of 26 people, including small children, were also discovered at a villa, rescuers said. Others swam out to sea to escape the inferno and some never came back.

Greece forest fires
Members of rescue team search a burned house in Mati east of Athens

The wildfires are the worst to hit the southeastern European country in over a decade with high winds fanning the flames through a number of holiday resorts.

The fast-moving flames quickly consumed homes and buildings fueled by 50 miles per hour wind gusts.

Flags across Greece were flying at half-mast after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras declared three days of national mourning for the victims.

Malliri said authorities have received dozens of calls for missing people, adding that some of those reported as missing could be among the dead, or might have already returned to their families without authorities having been informed.

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There was no official indication as to how many people might be missing and some took to social media and Greek television stations with appeals for information on their loved ones. Israel also said that disaster teams are ready to help Greece if they are needed. Fast paced wildfires swept through the town of Mati, trapping people in cars and on the edge of cliffs as others were forced to jump off to survive.

Some casualties occurred when people were stuck in their homes or vehicles, or when they drowned in the sea while trying to escape the flames.

"The raging forest fires in Greece have claimed many victims". The coast guards told EFE that while 15 people were rescued, eight Danish tourists were reported to be adrift on a boat.

He said he doesn't remember how many people he helped save, but he did what he could.

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Evangelos Bournous, the Rafina mayor, blamed the strong winds. "We share their pain and our thoughts are with them", the Dutch Royals said.

The girls were spotted on a rescue boat but no trace of them has been recorded on the vessel.

Greece's fire department says the death toll from wildfires that decimated seaside communities near Athens has increased to 79.

"The 44th anniversary of the restoration of democracy in Greece is overshadowed by this tragedy", Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos said, according to Greek national news agency AMNA. Spain was sending two firefighting aircraft while Cyprus was sending in 60 firefighters.

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