Gale-fanned wildfires raged through holiday resorts near Greece‘s capital, killing at least 24 people by early Tuesday and injuring more than 100, including 11 in serious condition, in the country’s deadliest fire season in more than a decade.
Greece sought international help through the European Union as the fires on either side of Athens left lines of cars torched, charred farms and forests, and sent hundreds of people racing to beaches to be evacuated by navy vessels, yachts and fishing boats.
Winds reached 80 kph (50 mph) as authorities deployed the country’s entire fleet of water-dropping planes and helicopters to give vacationers time to escape. Military drones remained in the air in the high winds to help officials direct more than 600 firefighters on the ground.
“We were unlucky. The wind changed and it came at us with such force that it razed the coastal area in minutes,” said Evangelos Bournous, mayor of the port town of Rafina, a sleepy mainland port that serves Greek holiday islands.
The dock area became a makeshift hospital as paramedics checked survivors when they came off coast guard vessels and private boats. The operation continued through the night.
The death toll rose further after the coast guard counted four bodies recovered at sea, a short distance from the fires.