Drone footage from Greece’s deadliest forest fire in decades reveals a ravaged hellscape of partially standing structures and incinerated foliage.
The fire broke out Monday northeast of Athens in the seaside Rafina region, racing through the area fueled by gale-force winds and leaving 82 dead with most burned beyond recognition, as crews searched for more victims.
Spokeswoman Stavroula Malliri said the search for further potential victims continued, So far, she said homes in the area that had not been destroyed and were shut had not been entered by rescue crews, but that the search would not end until every building in the area had been thoroughly investigated.
Apart from the house-to-house searches in the burnt areas, coast guard and volunteer divers were also searching the waters off the coast of the worst affected areas and a nearby deserted island. –CBS
Hundreds of people fled to nearby beaches after the fires broke out Monday, with many swimming out to sea to avoid the smoke and flames.
Dozens spent hours at sea before being picked up by coast guard vessels, fishing boats and a passing ferry. Several of the dead were people who drowned.
The worse affected area was the seaside community of Mati, where the majority of victims were found, including 26 people found huddled together, many embracing.
Most of the bodies have been burnt beyond recognition, meaning identification was possible only through DNA and dental records. –CBS
Maria Saridou and her son went to a morgue in the Greek capital to provide DNA samples as they searched for Saridou’s 55-year-old missing sister, Eleni, who had gone swimming with a friend in Mati.
“We found her car, it wasn’t burnt, nor was the house,” said 60-year-old Saridou. “It’s just that we can’t find her. … I believe she’s alive. Where she went, nobody knows where she went.”
— V Kritsie (@vkritsie) July 24, 2018
Hundreds of homes were also burnt or destroyed in the inferno, which ripped through the coastal area so fast it took many by surprise as the narrow streets in Mati quickly became clogged with parked and abandoned cars as people ran for their lives. As a result, escape routes were blocked and firefighters had trouble accessing key areas.
Some of the dead are believed to have tried to make it to the shore through narrow pathways, but lost their way in the thick smoke or had their paths blocked by the swift-moving blaze. Even those on beaches were not safe, as flames burned trees and vegetation at the water’s edge, while flaming pine cones rained downward, survivors have said. –CBS
Firefighting efforts from the air and sea were also hampered by gale-force winds and rough seas, as well as multiple fires which broke out at the same time.
Survivors are blaming authorities of failing to adequately prepare for the fires, and for not issuing evacuation orders soon enough. Defense Minister Phanos Kammenos tried to reassure residents of Mati Thursday morning, however residents weren’t having it.
“People died for nothing!” one woman cried to the minister.
Giannis Kardiakos, a local resident who says he stayed in the affected area until midnight, said that firefighting and rescue efforts started far too late.
“There was no protection, there was nothing! … I’m saying things as they were,” he said, as Kammenos detailed what the military and firefighters had been doing to battle the fire. “I’m not lying. We’re not talking politically here,” he added, before breaking down in tears.
Horrible and shocking: fires in Greece taking lives of 60 people (more?) All this happens so close to home, it seems surreal. Worried about my family in #Rafina 🙁 #Greecefires pic.twitter.com/PiQ5GxKzAF
— Zhenya (@evgenia_fili) July 24, 2018