A woman reacts as she tries to find her dog among burned-out cars, following a wildfire at the village of Mati, near Athens, Greece, 24 July 2018. Photo: Costas Baltas / Reuters

By Jason Horowitz
24 July 2018

MATI, Greece (The New York Times) – They nearly reached the water.

As wind-fueled wildfires that killed at least 80 people in vacation areas outside Athens bore down on their seaside resort, 26 men, women and children gathered in the hope that they could find the narrow path leading to a small staircase down to the water.

The gated entrance stood only a dozen paces away, but with smoke blotting their vision and choking their lungs, they appear to have lost their way. Officials found their bodies the next day, Tuesday; several were still clinging to one another.

At sundown, an eyeglass case, a belt buckle, the carcasses of dogs and the shells of cellphones dotted the still-smoldering field where they fell. Amid the burned pine cones and the naked trees, leaning as if slammed by a nuclear wind, lay a large leather sandal and a small blue one with a Velcro strap.

All around were the discarded blue rubber gloves of the emergency workers who carried the bodies away.

Greece, a country that understands tragedy all too well, woke Tuesday morning to its worst one in a decade. In addition to those killed by smoke or fire, or who drowned in the sea while trying to flee, 187 people were hospitalized, more than 20 of them children. Ten people remained in serious condition, the government said Tuesday night. […]

“There was a smell of smoke, but just the smell,” said Antonis Tsiongios, a 60-year-old plumber who had a vacation property here. “And then two hours later, the fire was here.”

By then, he said, it was too late to escape. The street out of town was clogged with cars and engulfed in flames.

“The only road,” he said, “was the sea.” […]

People fled into the sea to seek safety from the wildfires in Mati, Greece, 23 July 2018. Photo: Nikos Kalogerikos / Reuters

Europe has faced brutal heat waves in recent summers.

Last year, vacationers in flip-flops and bathing suits fled wildfires in France and Italy. This year, damper weather prevented the usual flare-ups in Spain, Italy and Portugal, but unusually high temperatures have led to wildfires in Sweden, Finland and Norway. Heat waves in the United Kingdom and Germany have worried public health officials there, too.

But it is in Greece, where winds reaching up to 60 miles per hour, drought and temperatures climbing to 100 degrees have made for the deadliest conditions. [more]

As Greek Wildfire Closed In, a Desperate Dash Ended in Death



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