Greece Wildfires: Rescuers Scour Scorched Towns after Fire Kill at Least 74
Rescue workers in Greece continued to search charred homes and burned-out cars Wednesday as the toll from some of the worst wildfires this century is expected to rise from at least 74 dead and 187 injured.
Many people fled to the sea to try to escape the flames as they tore through towns near Athens stoked by high winds, reducing pine forests to ash and devouring hundreds of buildings.
Greek media have described the disaster as a "national tragedy", while Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras cut short a visit to Bosnia and announced three days of national mourning.
The government has not yet said how many people are still missing from the fires, which broke out on Monday, as firefighters continue to battle blazes in some areas.
The charred bodies of 26 people, including small children, were discovered at a villa at the seaside resort of Mati, 40 kilometers (25 miles) northeast of Athens, said rescuer Vassilis Andriopoulos.
They were huddled together in small groups, "perhaps families, friends or strangers, entwined in a last attempt to protect themselves as they tried to reach the sea", he said.
As world leaders including Pope Francis affirmed their solidarity, Athens said 308 engineers would arrive on site by Wednesday to assess the damage.
But "the problem is what is still hidden under the ashes," said emergency services vice president Miltiadis Mylonas.
The death toll could surpass that from the blazes that hit Greece's southern island of Evia in 2007 in which 77 people perished.
One Belgian was among the victims, said Belgium's foreign minister Didier Reynders, while in Warsaw Poland's government said a Polish woman and her son also died.
Some 187 people have been hospitalized, with 82 still being treated on Tuesday evening, including almost a dozen children, most of whom were in a "serious condition", the fire services said.
The wildfires come as record temperatures in northern Europe have seen blazes cause widespread damage in recent days.
Sweden, experiencing an unprecedented drought and the highest temperatures in a century, has counted more than 20 fires across the country.
Fires have also hit Finland's northernmost Lapland province.
Norway, which experienced its hottest May temperatures on record, has seen several small fires. One firefighter was killed on July 15 trying to contain a blaze.
Fires have raged for five days in Latvia, destroying more than 1,000 hectares in the Baltic state.
Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team