74 killed as deadly forest fires rage near Athens

Mati: Wildfires sweeping through a Greek resort town killed at least 74 people on Tuesday, officials said, including families with children found clasped in a last embrace as they tried to flee the flames.

The inferno was by far Greece’s worst since fires devastated the southern Peloponnese peninsula in August 2007, killing dozens. It broke out in Mati late on Monday afternoon and was still burning in some areas on Tuesday.

Greece declared a state of emergency and appealed to its European Union partners for assistance in dealing with the fires.

Emergency crews found one group of 26 victims, some of them youngsters, lying close together near the top of a cliff overlooking a beach. “They had tried to find an escape route but unfortunately these people and their kids didn’t make it in time. Instinctively, seeing the end nearing, they embraced,” Nikos Economopoulos, the head of Greece’s Red Cross, told Skai TV.

A Reuters photographer saw four dead people on a road clogged with cars.

A firefighter sprays water on the fire in the town of Mati. (Thanassis Stavrakis/Associated Press)

Killer Fire

  • 700 people rescued by Coast Guard vessels
  • Mati, 29 km of the capital, is a popular spot for Greek holiday-makers, particularly pensioners and children at camps.
  • Emergency crews found one group of 26 victims, some of them youngsters, lying close together near the top of a cliff overlooking a beach.
  • The country is in desperate need of firefighting reinforcements from the EU.

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