The official death toll stands at 74 for the wildfires that swept through the Attic peninsula of Greece over the last two days, but that number is poised to rise due to dozens who are reported missing and 11 who are in intensive care due to life-threatening burns and smoke inhalation.
Seaside resort towns were devastated, with withering flames driving locals and tourists alike out of buildings and into the sea. In the most terrible instance among many, 26 charred bodies were found in a cleared area near the town of Mati. Rescue and recovery workers made the discovery, noting that some of the bodies were found in final, desperate hugs and that children were among the deceased.
From the BBC:
After the 26 bodies were found in an open space, Nikos Economopoulos, head of Greece’s Red Cross, said: “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.”
Hundreds of firefighters are working to quell at least three large fires on the peninsula. Support from the rest of Greece is being provided as available but is somewhat restricted by the efforts to contain and eliminate four wildfires in other areas of the country.
These fires have been unusually damaging because they have struck in populated, developed areas.
Greece is on fire fam pic.twitter.com/gpxBV5yCqt
— Zo (@g0rilla_zo) July 24, 2018
Other lifesavers have done their parts. From Ekathimerini:
Coast guard vessels patrolled the sea next to the seaside towns that were hit by the fires after rescuing more than 700 people who had fled to beaches or jumped in the sea to escape the spreading flames.
Rescue workers set up mobile units in Mati, Rafina and Kineta on Tuesday to distribute food and other supplies to hundreds of people who lost their homes in the fires.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has declared three days of national mourning, and in a show of humanity the heads of all Greek political parties have indicated that the time to assess blame or criticize responses will come later. For now, all of Greece is focusing on how cope with the tragedy.