Over 80 Confirmed Dead After Wildfires Devastate Athens Coastal Region
Wildfires devastated multiple seaside suburbs of Athens on Monday, causing at least 81 casualties and leaving many others missing or hospitalized.
After casting a heavy smoke over the Greek capital, the fires spread quickly through the towns of Mati, Rafina, and Kineta with the help of 60 mph winds and July temperatures. More than 700 people fled into the sea as their neighborhoods were quickly swallowed by the flames, and were later picked up from the water by Coast Guard boats.
In the town of Mati, 40 km north-east of Athens, the remains of 26 were found in a field, some of who were embracing.
98 percent of Mati was destroyed, Mayor of Rafina-Pikermi Evangelos Bournous told Skai TV.
According to the Health Ministry, 187 people total were injured, including 23 children. The official tally of the deceased has continued to grow since reports of the fire on Monday.
Many were searching for missing family members and friends on Tuesday, and firefighters worked to qualm the fires still burning in Rafina, where more than 200 homes have been confirmed as uninhabitable by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport.
Four people were arrested on charges of suspected looting after breaking into a home that was evacuated during the fire, according to Greek news source Ekathimerini.
The cause of the fire in Mati, as well as nearby blazes in the towns of Kineta and Rafina, is currently unsolved. Supreme Court prosecutor Xeni Dimitriou ordered an investigation into the source, and the public questioned whether the emergency response had been fast or effectively prepared for.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras made a public address on Tuesday and declared three days of national mourning. Tsipras met with European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides in Athens on Wednesday to discuss EU assistance in the aftermath of the fires.
— Kathimerini English Edition (@ekathimerini) July 25, 2018
Hellenic Republic Spokesperson Dimitris Tzanakopoulos announced a disaster assistance plan of 20 million euros, taken from the Public Investments Program. The government plans to use these funds to help relieve victims of the fire from property taxes and loan payments.
Tzanakopoulos stated Wednesday that fire victims will receive 5,000 euros per family; those with more than three children will get 6,000 euros and businesses will receive 8,000 euros.
Rescue workers, government aide and blood donation centers have mobilized to the Rafina region and to Kineta, west of Athens, to offer assistance to those who lost their homes, belongings, and community members in the fire.
AirBnb has created a platform for homeowners with extra room to offer up their space to those who are now homeless.
Bournous estimated that the damage to the forest equated to around 2,100 hectares.