At least 50 people dead in Greece following wildfires 4 years ago

At least 50 people dead in Greece following wildfires

The death toll is expected to rise even further...

At least 50 people are feared dead in wildfires burning near Athens, as Greece faces its worst wildfire crisis in over a decade.

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Authorities urged people to abandon their homes on Monday after high winds caused the worst fires of the last ten years in two areas either side of the capital.

Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said the majority of the victims died in their homes or their cars in Mati, a holiday resort 29km north-east of Athens. The area was devastated by a fast moving blaze on Monday evening.

The death toll rose sharply on Tuesday morning after 26 bodies were found near the harbour town of Rafina, according to Red Cross workers and the region's vice mayor, Girgos Kokkolis.

According to the Red Cross, 26 bodies were found in the yard of a villa in the seaside village of Mati, which is at the centre of the disaster.

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Prior to this, the death toll was believed to have stood at 24.

Mati is in the Rafina region that is a popular area for local tourists, mainly the elderly and children at holiday camps.

"Mati doesn’t even exist as a settlement anymore," one woman told Greece’s Skai TV. “I saw corpses, burned-out cars. I feel lucky to be alive."

On Tuesday morning, Ambulance Service deputy director Miltiadis Mylonas said the number of casualties was likely to rise as the more gutted homes and cars were checked.

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"It took people by surprise and the events happened very fast. Also, the fires broke out on many fronts, so all these factors made the situation extremely difficult," he said.

"The task we face now is organising the identification of victims by members of their families."

Greece have requested assistance from the EU and the US, while Italy, Spain, Germany, Poland, Cyprus and France, to name a few, have all sent aid in the form of airplanes, vehicles and firefighters.

Wildfires are not uncommon in Greece, and the relatively dry winter combined with recent scorching temperatures provided the perfect conditions for the blazes, although at this point it's uncertain what started the fires.

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Main image via Reuters