Greece wildfires toll reaches 80, rescue efforts intensify

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Athens, July 25 (IANS) The death toll in the worst forest fires in Greece in more than a decade increased to 80 on Wednesday as rescue workers intensified efforts to locate the missing.

The death of a 84-year-old, who had been one of an estimated 187 people injured, pushed the count up, the Guardian reported.

According to officials, crews were going from house to house and car to car in seaside communities ravaged by the wildfires near Athens.

Nine people were in intensive care and 11 children had been taken to hospital.

At least two-thirds of the houses in the Marathon district, with included Mati, the coastal resort worst affected by the fires, had been burned, said Marathon Mayor Ilias Psinakis.

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“Of the 1,900 houses in Mati and the 1,100 in Neo Voutzas, two-thirds must have burned,” Psinakis said.

Irish national Brian O’Callaghan-Westropp who was on honeymoon in Greece was named as one of the missing. He got separated from his wife Zoe Holohan as they tried to escape the fires.

Constantine Michalos, who heads the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the devastating fires were spread by gale-force winds of up to 77mph and were “changing direction on a minute-by-minute basis”, making rescue operations particularly difficult.

Speaking to RTÉ Radio after visiting Mati, he said: “The area can only be compared to Syria on a day of heavy bombardment.”

It is Greece’s worst natural disaster since wildfires destroyed large tracts of the western Peloponnese in 2007. That incident claimed 63 lives.

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Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had earlier declared three days of national mourning. Rescue efforts were expected to continue for several days, with four firefighting planes from Italy and 64 firefighters from Cyprus joining the operation.

The government said that 18 million pounds in emergency funding would be distributed to assist the stricken areas.

On Wednesday, the Greek Parliament said a further 10 million euros would be given to people who had lost homes and loved ones, the Guardian said.

–IANS

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