Search for survivors as Greece mourns wildfire dead

A firefighter sprays water on the fire in the town of Mati, east of Athen (AP/Thanassis Stavrakis) Credit: AP/Press Association Images

Rescue workers are continuing to search on land and sea for survivors of Greek wildfires that raged through seaside resorts near Athens.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras declared three days of national mourning after at least 74 people were killed in the deadliest wildfires to hit the country for more than a decade.

The fire service said that a further 164 adults and 23 children were being treated in hospitals for injuries.

The latest death toll comes after a Red Cross official reported the discovery of more than 26 bodies at a seaside resort in the coastal village of Mati.

The fires were fanned by high winds as they raged through holiday resorts near Athens on Monday.

Credit: PA

Two fires broke out on Monday, one to the west of the capital near the town of Kineta and one to the north-east near the port of Rafina.

The Rafina fire appears to have been the deadliest by far.

Ministers said more than 700 people had been evacuated by sea by the coast guard.

Greece has sought international help through the EU as the fires on either side of Athens left lines of cars torched, charred farms and forests, and sent hundreds of people racing to beaches to be evacuated by navy vessels, yachts and fishing boats.

Winds reached 50mph as authorities deployed the country’s entire fleet of water-dropping planes and helicopters to give holidaymakers time to escape.

Drone footage shows the effect on the surrounding homes

Military drones remained in the air in the high winds to help officials direct more than 600 firefighters below.

“We were unlucky. The wind changed and it came at us with such force that it razed the coastal area in minutes,” said Evangelos Bournous, mayor of the port town of Rafina, a sleepy mainland port that serves Greek holiday islands.

The dock area became a makeshift hospital as paramedics checked survivors when they came off coast guard vessels and private boats.

The operation continued through the night.

Credit: AP
Credit: AP
Credit: AP

The fire posed no immediate threat to Greece’s famed ancient monuments, but as it raged inland children’s summer camps and holiday homes were hastily abandoned.

Fleeing drivers clogged highways into Athens, hampering the firefighting effort.

It has been the deadliest fire season to hit Greece in more than a decade.

More than 60 people were killed in 2007 when huge fires swept across the southern Peloponnese region.

Countries included Cyprus, Germany, Italy, Spain and Turkey have all offered their assistance.

Credit: AP
Credit: AP