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Tourists flee to beaches as wildfires sweep Greece

Retreating travellers picked up by passing boats

At least 60 people have lost their lives and over 100 others have been injured in forest fires near Greek capital Athens, authorities have confirmed.


As the sky over Athens turned a smoky orange, two fires either side of the Greek city burned in the country’s worst blazes in over 20 years.


Acropolis hill, Athens (Image (AP / Theodora Tongas)


According to Associated Press, the fires have destroyed dozens of homes, prompted residents to evacuate and tourists to flee to beaches east of Athens.


Past roads clogged with cars bound for the sea, numerous people entered the ocean to escape the fires and were picked up by passing boats.


One of the towns hardest hit by the fires was Mati, in the tourist region of Rafina.    


"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.”


Evangelos Bournous, mayor of Rafina, which serves Greek holiday islands, said the town had been unlucky.


“The wind changed and it came at us with such force that it razed the coastal area in minutes,” Mr Bournous said.


Greece has sought international assistance to deal with the fires, which Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras described as “completely asymmetric”.


“It's a difficult night for Greece,” he said.


The first fire broke out in the seaside town of Kineta, 50kms west of Athens, while blazes in Pentelli, Rafina, Soufli and on the southern island of Crete followed.


[UPDATED 11PM, 24 JULY 2018]


Written by: Mark Harada
Published: 24 July 2018

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