by Aggelos Skordas
The tragedy that struck Greece on Monday takes unprecedented dimensions, as according to the Fire Brigade’s latest briefing the number of those killed by the wildfires in the region of Rafina, east of Athens, has risen furthermore to 74. Among the victims are many children and infants. Dozens are still missing, according to unconfirmed reports, while the total number of those injured being 187, including 23 children.
Rafina Mayor Vangelis Bournous expressed fears the number of casualties could rise significantly and exceed 100, as rescue crews are now searching burned buildings and cars. In addition, the Mayor of Rafina estimated that the properties in the area that have been severely damaged are no less than 2,000. Similarly hundreds of vehicles have been burned to ashes.
A group of volunteers hves set up an electronic database with the names and photos of those missing, after Monday’s wildfires. So far, 34 missing people’s photos have been uploaded on the website (visit here: missingpeople.audax.gr/). Authorities urged people with missing relatives or friends to call the 199 hotline to provide rescuers with their names and descriptions. At the same time, the National Blood Center is calling for blood donations.
So far, all the bodies have been recovered from the area between the coastal town of Rafina and nearby Nea Makri, especially in Mati and Kokkino Limanaki, where they were trapped by the flames in buildings and cars or drowned in their attempt to escape from the sea.
On Tuesday morning 26 people were found dead 30 meters away from a beach at Kokkino Limanaki. The victims’ bodies were found all piled up together on a property, as they tried to run towards the beach and escape the flames. Eyewitnesses, among whom the President of the Hellenic Red Cross Nikos Economopoulos, indicated that the victims were discovered bracing each other.
Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras declared a three-day mourning period. “Nothing and nobody will be forgotten. Nothing and nobody will be left without help and the assistance of the state. But also, nothing will left unanswered”, the Premier highlighted during a televised address to the Greek people.
As of Tuesday early night the major fires on two fronts of Attica, Kineta and Kallitechnoupoli, remain in full swing, while the Fire Brigade, with the assistance of the Coast Guard, the Police, the Armed Forces and volunteers continue to battle the flames and search for those missing.
Among the countries that have sent aid to Greece is neighbouring FYROM, the government of which announced that it offers six million denars (about 100,000 euros).
Government spokesperson Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that in a meeting chaired by Tsipras there was an assessment of the situation and of the immediate steps that will be taken. Among the measures agreed upon are: The Finance Ministry will provide 20 million euros in a special account for the Interior Ministry to meet immediate needs of municipalities struck by the fires. A special account will be set up for donations for fire victims to be paid into by the state and the private sector. The money will be used to pay for damages. The state's participation will be decided in coming days. Patrol teams consisting of the police, firefighters and the army will be put together to stand over the areas.
President Prokopis Pavlopoulos sent a message of unity on Tuesday and support for the families hurt by the fires in Attica. In a statement issued on the occasion of the 44thanniversary of the restoration of democracy, Pavlopoulos said that all thoughts are on the tragedy of the fires that struck Attica. This tragedy shows us, at the same time, the road to our own debt, particularly within the broader framework of today’s conditions, for the future of our people and our country, highlighted the Greek President.