Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Wildfires kill at least 74 in Greece’s ‘Pompeii’

ATHENS: Greece’s prime minister told of the “unspeakable tragedy” the country faced after at least 74 people were killed by wildfires that swept through a resort, trapping people in cars and on the edge of cliffs as others were forced to jump off to survive.

The scale of Monday night’s devastation in Mati became apparent at first light on Tuesday.

Scores of gutted cars lined streets in the coastal town, east of Athens, melted by the intensity of the heat. Bodies lay on roadsides, and in one area, a group of 26 people were found dead — some locked in an embrace as the flames closed in.

The group, which included children, were found near the top of a cliff overlooking a beach. They had ended up there after apparently searching for an escape route.

“Instinctively, seeing the end nearing, they embraced,” the head of Greece’s Red Cross, Nikos Economopoulos, told Skai TV.

The lucky ones were able to leap off the cliffs to survive or rush into the sea from the beach.

“We went into the sea because the flames were chasing us all the way to the water. It burned our backs and we dived into the water,” said Kostas Laganos, a middle-aged survivor.

He compared the ordeal to the destruction of the city of Pompeii, where thousands were incinerated by the volcano of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. “I said ‘my God, we must run to save ourselves and nothing else’.”

At least 74 people were killed, a fire brigade spokeswoman said, and the death toll was expected to rise. Poland said two of its citizens, a mother and her son, were among the victims.

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