Wildfires in Greece Kill At Least 49

Fire officials in Greece said Tuesday at least 49 people have been killed and more than 140 injured in wildfires raging through resort towns near the country’s capital.

Regional authorities have declared a state of emergency in areas east and west of Athens and deployed the army to help fight the blazes.

Athens has asked the European Union for aerial and ground support to help battle the flames. Greece said Cyprus offered to send firefighters, while Spain offered water-dropping aircraft. BBC News reported countries, including Italy, Germany, Poland and France, have sent planes, vehicles and firefighters.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras cut short a visit to Bosnia on Monday and returned to Athens to preside over an emergency-response meeting.

“We are doing everything humanly possible to try and tackle these fires,” Tsipras said. “What concerns us is that there are fires occurring simultaneously.”

The first fire broke out in a pine forest near the small town of Kineta, 50 kilometers west of Athens.

Three communities were evacuated, and the blaze shut down a nearly 20-kilometer section of a major highway.

High temperatures of up to 40 degrees Celsius have been predicted for Greece, and authorities have warned that the risk of forest fires is high. Wind gusts of up to 80 kph were hampering efforts to contain the blazes.

Another fire was burning northeast of Athens, in the Penteli area, moving into the town of Rafina. The mayor of Rafina estimated at least 100 homes have been destroyed.

The Greek coast guard sent boats to the area to evacuate residents trapped on the beach by the flames. It was also searching for a boat reported missing that was said to be carrying Danish tourists fleeing the fires.

A local fire chief went on state TV to appeal to people to leave the area after some tried to stay in their properties.

“People should leave, close up their homes and just leave. People cannot tolerate so much smoke for so many hours,” Achilleas Tzouvaras said. “This is an extreme situation.” 

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