A ‘biblical disaster’: Greek official on wildfires that have killed 50
ABCNews.com(ATHENS, Greece) — Twin fires raging through Greece have killed at least 50 people as wind-whipped flames swept through forestland, prompting scores of victims to flee to the sea via clogged roadways as they desperately tried to outrun the rapidly spreading inferno.
As fires, which started about 5 p.m. local time Monday, burned out of control on either side of the Greek capital of Athens, cars and farms and forests were torched, with hundreds of people racing toward beaches to be rescued by boat.
Greece’s interior minister, Panos Skourletis, told Sky News the fires are a “national tragedy” and a “biblical disaster with human losses.”
More than 700 people were rescued by the Coast Guard, Sky News reported.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras declared a period of national mourning.
“Today Greece is mourning, and in memory of those who were lost, we are declaring a three-day period of mourning,” Tsipras said. “But we mustn’t let mourning overwhelm us, because these hours are hours of battle, unity, courage and above all solidarity.”
The flames had not reached Athens nor were they threatening any of the famous ancient Greek ruins surrounding the area, officials said.
Turkey has joined Spain in offering to provide aid, including airplanes and helicopters, to Greece.
Scenes of devastation and death were reported throughout the region. Rescuers said they found 26 bodies “huddled together” at a seaside resort in Mati.
People jammed roads and freeways, trying to get away from the fires only to be trapped in their cars by the deadly flames.
“The country is going through an unspeakable tragedy,” Prime Minister Tsipras said.
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