x

Society

Fisherman: ‘Chaos’ as Kids, Elderly Escaped Greek Fire

July 26, 2018

RAFINA, Greece (AP) — The cries for help pierced the choking smoke. Dozens of people bobbed in the sea after vicious flames forced them into the water. Children as young as 8 held onto adults, and people who couldn’t swim clung to those who could.

That was the scene confronting Tawefik Halil, 42, as he and other fishermen plucked young and old from the water after the overwhelmed Greek coast guard asked for help.

Halil is among dozens of volunteers being hailed as heroes for helping to save hundreds of people stranded on beaches and in the sea as deadly forest fires raged through holiday resorts near Athens Monday night.

“It was chaos, do you understand? Do you know what it’s like to be in all that smoke, not being able to see anything and to have people asking for help?” Halil told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

He said he doesn’t remember how many people he helped save, but he did what he could.

“You can’t see anything in the smoke and fire — so much fire and so much smoke. There was so much wind,” he said. “We could not breathe. I almost fainted at some point from all the smoke, and it was very difficult, my friend, it was so difficult. I have never seen such a difficult thing before.”

The fire razed holiday resorts east of Athens and killed at least 79 people. But more than 700 survivors were rescued by boat and taken to the port of Rafina through the night early Tuesday.

Many people on the beaches were forced to swim out due to the ferocity of the fire, said Halil.

“The people got trapped: behind them fire and in front of them the sea. What can they do? They got into the sea,” he said.

The people in the water ranged in age from 8 to 70, he said, some clustered together and all pleading for help.

“There were all these people in the water, some knew how to swim and some didn’t,” he said.

“Those that could swim, we saved them. The other ones that did not know how to swim, we do not know if they are there, if they are alive and what happened. No one knows. But what we could do, we did.”

The Egyptian, who has been living in Greece and working as a fisherman for two decades, said it was his second time dealing with a humanitarian disaster; the first was helping to rescue Syrian migrants off the Greek island of Chios.

It wasn’t all good news for the fishermen that day. Halil said his friend’s boat pulled out a dead body.

“It’s a tragic thing,” he said. “I still can’t believe what happened, honestly.”

By MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS and SRDJAN NEDELJKOVIC , Associated Press

RELATED

ATHENS, Greece  — Scores of Greek firefighters and water-bombing aircraft succeeded late Wednesday in taming a large wildfire on the fringes of Athens that forced authorities to evacuate two nearby settlements.

Top Stories

Columnists

A pregnant woman was driving in the HOV lane near Dallas.

General News

NEW YORK – Meropi Kyriacou, the new Principal of The Cathedral School in Manhattan, was honored as The National Herald’s Educator of the Year.

Video

Immigrant Families Rejoice over Biden’s Expansive Move Toward Citizenship, While Some are Left Out

HOUSTON (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of immigrants had reason to rejoice when President Joe Biden unveiled a highly expansive plan to extend legal status to spouses of U.

STUTTGART, Germany  — Jamal Musiala is lighting up the European Championship and showing just why his teammates think the 21-year-old forward can go on to become one of the best players in the world.

ATHENS, Greece  — Scores of Greek firefighters and water-bombing aircraft succeeded late Wednesday in taming a large wildfire on the fringes of Athens that forced authorities to evacuate two nearby settlements.

BOSTON  — A blistering heat wave Wednesday extended from the Midwest to New England, leaving millions of people sweltering through the Juneteenth holiday, including in places like northern Maine where they rarely experience such conditions this early in the year.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. [email protected]

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.