Offers for help from Cyprus, Israel, Spain, Bulgaria, Italy, Germany, Poland and France poured in to Greece after a fast-moving wind-whipped wildfire killed at least 50 people in the holiday resorts of Mati, Rafina, Neos Voutzas and Penteli.
“Israeli teams on are on alert and at the disposal of Greece if necessary,” the country’s embassy in Athens said. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov spoke with Greek Premier Alexis Tsipras by phone and offered to send 50 firefighters and two fire engines, while Cyprus and Spain also sent equipment and personnel, said Kathimerini.
Other European Union countries sent planes, vehicles and firefighters to try to contain the fatal inferno that was the worst since the the devastating 2007 fires, especially in the Peloponnese, killed scores of people with arson suspected. There was no report on how the new fires started.
In the capital of Athens, the Greek flag flew at half-mast on top of Parliament on Syntagma Square.
“Our thoughts are with Greece and with the victims of the terrible fires,” French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter.
“Very saddened by the tragic forest fires in Greece. Europe will stand by our Greek friends in these difficult times. Help is on its way from several EU countries,” European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted.
Tsipras also spoke on the telephone with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who offered resources as well as condolences, the ANA-MPA news agency reported.
The casualties included people found away from the scene with a fifth body discovered in the sea off the coast of Artemida, about six nautical miles south of Rafina, the paper said. He is described as a man aged in his mid-60s and is believed to have drowned while trying to flee the deadly fire that swept across Attica’s eastern coast.
A Hellenic Navy frigate recovered the bodies of three women and a child in the same area earlier on July 23.
Port authorities and private boats were looking for two Danish tourists who were among a group of 10 trying escape the flames in an inflatable boat. Eight of the passengers were rescued after the dinghy ran into trouble.
SKAI TV showed footage of burnt cars stopped just above a cliff, saying that a number of bodies were found as people were trapped between the flames and the cliff with no where to go.
A local resident told reporters she managed to flee the flames with her 3-year-old daughter because she knew a passage from Mati toward the sea, around that cliff. She was assisted over the rocks and into the water as she carried her child in her arms. They escaped with minor burns.
The cars of other victims were found burned, with signs those inside jumped out immediately, leaving behind clothes, keys and other objects but weren’t able to escape.