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NATIONAL TRAGEDY

Photos: Deadly fires near Athens, Greece have left dozens dead

Reuters/Costas Baltas
Firefighters, soldiers and local residents carry a hose in the town of Rafina near Athens.
  • Edmund Heaphy
By Edmund Heaphy

Contributing writer

This article is more than 2 years old.

At least 50 people have died and more than 150 have been injured by a wildfire that has swept through a resort region popular among families and pensioners, near Athens, Greece.

In what has become the most devastating disaster of its kind to hit the country since 2007, two major fires, buoyed by gale-force winds, raged overnight in the country’s historical Attica region, forcing hundreds to flee their homes.

Some 26 bodies were found in a yard in Mati, a seaside village around 30 kilometers (19 miles) east of Athens. Authorities said that many of those killed are thought to be young children.

Wildfires are a recurring problem in the region, which gets high temperatures and little rainfall during the summer months. However, the minister for public order and citizen protection Nikos Toskas suggested that arsonists may have started the fires—and they were likely exacerbated by unusually strong and unpredictable winds.

Reuters/Costas Baltas
A man uses a cloth to protect himself from smoke in Rafina.

Greek interior minister Panos Skourletis described the event as a “national tragedy” and a “biblical disaster with human losses.” Prime minister Alexis Tsipras, after cutting short an official visit to Bosnia, said it was “a difficult night for Greece.”

More than 600 firefighters were deployed to tackle the two largest fires, in Rafina, a port town on the region’s eastern cost, and in Kineta, a small beach town to the west.

Reuters/Costas Baltas
Firefighters and soldiers try to extinguish flames.
Reuters/Costas Baltas
A man looks at the flames of a wildfire in Rafina.
Reuters/Alkis Konstantinidis
A firefighting helicopter flies over Rafina.
Reuters/Costas Baltas
A firefighter in flame-resistant gear in Rafina.

Residents returning to Mati on Tuesday were met with tragic scenes, with the town’s streets full of the burnt-out remains of abandoned cars. Whole towns have been destroyed, and authorities have warned that the death toll could rise.

Reuters/Costas Baltas
Burned cars are seen following a wildfire in the village of Mati, near Athens.
Reuters/Costas Baltas
A woman reacts as she tries to find her dog in the village of Mati, near Athens.

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