Desperate sadness as Greece deals with fires


At least 79 people have died and 187 have been injured in wildfires which have spread rapidly in Greece.

The devastation in Athens has been called a “national tragedy” and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has declared three days of mourning.

The death toll could continue to rise as firefighters continue to battle flames, and the number of missing people remains unclear.

Sky’s Europe correspondent Mark Stone is in Mati, where 26 bodies were found.

On the side of the street, a group of firefighters are catching their breath. They’ve been on the go for about 24 hours.

It’s just gone midnight and they’re preparing for the next phase of their task: house-to-house searches for victims, perhaps even survivors.

Firefighters and volunteers try to extinguish flames during a wildfire at the village of Kineta, near Athens
Image: Firefighters and volunteers at the village of Kineta, near Athens

There are many elderly people in this seaside resort. There’s a chance they could still be inside their damaged homes.

It’s striking that some of the properties here are not damaged by the fires, despite the flames clearly sweeping straight past. The land all around them is now ash.

It’s the smoke from the flames which will have killed a significant number here.

Firefighters try to extinguish flames during a wildfire at the village of Kineta, near Athens, on July 24, 2018
Image: Land is ignited not just through contact with flames but simply through the heat

The rescue team have also found a small cat. As locals walk past looking at their devastated town they ask if anyone is missing their pet.

I meet a woman who considers herself very lucky. She, her house and her family are all safe. But her garden and her neighbourhood is destroyed.

“It’s silly to cry over my garden. Sorry,” she says.

Loss is all relative in disasters like this. Some have lost everything. Others perhaps only their cat or their garden. But this is a community in deep shock.

Rescuers arrive at the area where dead bodies were found following a wildfire at the village of Mati, near Athens, on July 24, 2018
Image: Rescuers in Mati are looking for victims and survivors

All the survivors talk about the speed of the flames. It’s hard to imagine, but flames in wildfires flow across landscapes almost like water.

Patches of land are ignited not just through contact with existing flames but simply through the heat. That’s how the fires manage to jump across roads.

The erratic and unusually strong winds pushed the fires in various directions which changed quickly.

People said the flames seemed literally to be chasing them.

Survivors from the wildfires in Greece
Image: Survivors are returning to their homes, many to find nothing remains

Molten metal is all over the roads. The cars that did not actually catch fire melted in the heat – plastic headlights and taillights melted, dripped off the bodywork and have now solidified again.

I watch a troop of soldiers with torches pass along the eerily quiet streets in the hills above this seaside town. The electricity is out and the water is down. It’s pitch black.

People watch a wildfire in the town of Rafina, near Athens, on July 23, 2018
Image: People watch a wildfire in the town of Rafina, near Athens

The soldiers explain that they too are going house-to-house, checking for victims. They wander off into the darkness.

Nearby another group with torches passes by. They are locals, back to see what’s left of their home.

More from Greece

Through the day, there have been scenes of desperate sadness as people return to the town they fled to find out of their family and friends made it.

The number known not to have made it is likely to rise above 100 in the hours ahead.

From – SkyNews