Greece fires: state of emergency declared as deadly blazes rage

Greece fires: state of emergency declared as deadly blazes rage

Greece fires: state of emergency declared as deadly blazes rage

Rescue workers continued to hunt for those who might have escaped, but at least 74 were confirmed dead.

Residents and terrified holidaymakers were overtaken by the flames in homes, on foot or in their cars.

A Reuters witness also saw several bodies in the area. "Instinctively, seeing the end nearing, they embraced", Economopoulos said.

"The sea was burning, the flaming pine cones were falling into it", said the woman, who gave only her first name, Mary.

Achilleas Tzouvaras, a senior fire chief, told residents to "just leave" homes threatened by the fire.

Yiannis Philipopoulos said early today that he and his wife recognised the 9-year-old girls Sophia and Vasiliki in the TV news footage after they spent a fruitless day searching for them at area hospitals and law enforcement agencies.

Fire service spokeswoman Stavroula Malliri said the death toll had increased to 79.

"We shut ourselves in the house, we closed the shutters, we had towels over our faces", she said.

The coastguard said four more bodies were retrieved from the sea.

"We were unlucky", Evangelos Bournous, the mayor of Rafina, told the Associated Press. More than 1000 buildings and 300 cars were damaged, the village turned into a smouldering wreck.

Wildfires raged through seaside resorts near the Greek capital, torching homes, cars and forests and killing at least 50 people, authorities said Tuesday.

Officials said they were Greece's deadliest blazes in more than a decade.

Police in the town earlier said they found two Danish tourists out of a group of 10 in a boat at sea off the town and were trying to locate the others.

"People are shocked, lost". He announced three days of national mourning.

Newspaper printed banner headlines including "Killer Fire" and "Hell" and reported fears the death toll would climb.

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The coastal region on the western side of Attica, Kineta - around 54 kilometers (34 miles) west of Athens - was evacuated when fires broke out Monday afternoon in a forest in Geraneia Mountains that surround the area.

His government has asked other European countries for helicopters and additional firefighters to help tackle the fires.

"These people must have tried to find a way out into the sea but they were likely trapped in the flames".

"There was panic, people were screaming for help".

"We will do whatever is humanly possible to control it", Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told reporters. The cause of the current blaze was not immediately clear and an Athens prosecutor ordered an investigation into it.

Hundreds of others abandoned cars and fled to nearby beaches, from where they were evacuated hours later by coast guard and private boats.

"I am really concerned by the parallel outbreak of these fires", Tsipras said.

Meanwhile, the Greek High Court ordered an investigation into the wildfire.

Giorgos Ennios-Eros, 28, who lives in northern Rafina, said he felt the area could have been better secured against wildfires, which were common in Greece during the summer.

The death toll is nearly certain to surpass the 77 people who perished in blazes that ripped through the southern island of Evia in 2007.

Forecasters said conditions would remain challenging on Tuesday, although showers and falling temperatures were expected in Athens.

Sweden is experiencing an unprecedented drought and soaring temperatures which have reached the highest in a century.

In Finland's northernmost Lapland province fires have ravaged woods and grassland close to the border with Russian Federation.

Shell-shocked authorities have also been accused of a slow response to the gale-driven fires, which laid waste to an entire village in a matter of minutes. One firefighter was killed on July 15 trying to contain a blaze.

Fires have raged for nearly a week in Latvia, destroying more than 800 hectares in the Baltic state's western regions.

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