Hundreds of homes and vehicles have been destroyed and at least 50 people died in Attica region following a number of devastating wildfires that ignited near Athens, Greece on Monday, July 23, 2018. Regional Governor Rena Dourou declared a state of emergency for Western and Eastern Attica. Most of the victims were trapped in the village of Mati and died either in homes or cars. The death toll is expected to rise.
The first wildfire reportedly broke out around 12:00 local time in the seaside resort town of Kineta, west of Athens, according to authorities.
Another fire began in the area of Penteli a few hours later and with the help of strong winds rapidly spread to other parts of eastern Attica, including Rafina, Pikermi, Mati and Neos Voutzas, leaving many people no time to escape.
As of early Tuesday, July 24, the death toll stood at 49, with many of the dead believed to be young children.
Mayor of the village of Mati, which is at the center of disaster, said they recovered 26 bodies in just one yard. Many more are still missing.
The village is popular with local tourists, especially pensioners and children attending holiday camps, Reuters news agency notes.
The charred bodies in the yard were lying just 15 m (50 feet) from the sea, photographer Pantelis Saitas said.
Search-and-rescue operations are still underway, including the one for 10 tourists who fled one of the fires in a boat.
Greece mobilized all emergency forces and asked for international assistance.
“What is happening here in eastern Attica is a black hell. After I passed by hundreds of burning cars and houses earlier today, I reached the yard where police said so many people had been found dead,” said journalist Kostas Koukoumakas. “Most of them were tourists who had tried to find refuge but did not make it.”
Officials suggested the current blazes may have been started by arsonists looking to loot abandoned homes.
The wildfires are reportedly the worst to hit the country since 2007.
Featured image: Aftermath of deadly wildfire in Mati, Attica, Greece July 23, 2018.