Greece Wildfire Armageddon : 81 people now confirmed dead , 200 injured , death toll expected to rise

A firefighter walks among burned cars, following a wildfire at the village of Mati, near Athens, Greece July 24, 2018. REUTERS/Costas Baltas

At least 81 people are now confirmed to have died in wildfires that have ripped though Greece, as anti-terror police investigate whether one blaze may have been started deliberately.

Close to 200 people – including 23 children – have also been injured as a result of the devastation, which Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has labelled a “national tragedy”.

Among the dead were 26 people found huddled together near a beach, with experts saying some bodies may be difficult to identify.

One of those who have been identified is Irishman Brian O’Callaghan-Westropp, who became separated from his wife Zoe Holohan as they tried to escape the fires in the eastern coastal town of Mati.

The couple, from Dublin, got married at Clonabreany House, Kells in Co Meath last Thursday before flying out to Greece on Saturday, and were travelling in a vehicle when they were forced to flee.

Ms Holohan, who works in advertising for the Sunday World, is in hospital with burns to her head and hands.

In a statement, their family said they were “deeply saddened” by the death of Mr O’Callaghan-Westropp, who worked in finance for a catering company and volunteered at Blood Bikes East, which provides emergency medical transport to hospitals around the Irish capital.

Meanwhile, post-mortems and identification procedures are continuing at a morgue in Schisto, west of Athens, which will involve coroners, police forensic units, and forensic dentistry experts from Athens University.

Three days of mourning have been declared as officials come to terms with the grim reality that the death toll is likely to rise even further.

Up to 40 people are still feared missing
As many as 40 people are still thought to be missing, and firefighters are continuing to check on houses in the area to search for victims.

It has also emerged that anti-terror police are investigating whether one fire, which spread through Mati, was a matter of arson.

Some residents believe it may have been the result of a crude attempt to clear forest land and make space for building projects, but police are yet to determine a cause.

Before the blaze, the area was dense with thick pine, which – combined with strong winds – allowed the flames to spread extremely quickly.

One resident of Mati, Agni Gantona, said the speed at which the fire moved made it difficult to escape.

“We took our cars and went down to the sea and got into the sea to escape, but there were people who did not make it,” he said.

“We got into the water and stayed there for about five hours until the boats came to pick us up. We were at the beach with about 250, 300 people.

“Some were burned, some were near fainting from the smoke and the flames. Groups of us, we were holding each other by the hand and shouting each other’s names, because we could not see from the smoke.”

Sky’s Europe correspondent Mark Stone, who is in Mati, says other survivors have begun to return to their homes, but many are finding that nothing remains.

Some locals are working in volunteer centres to help provide people with clothes and other supplies.

Molten metal is all over the roads, with those cars that did not catch fire having melted in the heat.

The scenes resulted in one local newspaper leading with the headline “Armageddon”, with its front page featuring a photo of a burned Greek flag hanging from the branches of a charred tree.

Sky News

Related Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *