Survivors of the huge wildfires that have killed at least 74 people in Greece have told how they were forced to leap from cliffs into the sea to escape the flames.
Scores of gutted vehicles were seen lining the streets alongside dead bodies in the coastal town of Mati, near Athens, as the scale of Monday night’s devastation began to emerge.
A group of 26 people were found dead in the town, some discovered locked in an embrace as the enormous fire engulfed large parts of the area.
One victim who managed to escape the blaze said: “We went into the sea because the flames were chasing us all the way to the water.
“It burned our backs and we dived into the water.”
“Everything happened in seconds,” said Andreaas Passios, who lives next to the compound in Mati where the 26 bodies were found.
“I grabbed a beach towel. It saved my life. I soaked it, grabbed my wife and we ran to the sea.”
Mr Passios said he and his wife stayed by the sea for two hours.
“It was unbelievable. Gas canisters were exploding. Burning pine cones were flying everywhere,” he said.
Among the survivors was former Greek Communist Party leader Aleka Papariga.
“The police tried to direct us away from the fire, but we couldn’t escape it,” she said.
“We got stuck in traffic and the flames were on top of us. We managed to find a small gap and we made it out.”
Some 74 people have been confirmed dead as the search for missing people continued today, with authorities saying they expect the death toll to rise.
It was not clear how many people remained unaccounted for as boats combed beaches for any remaining survivors.
Greece’s prime minister Alexis Tsipras described the fires as an “unspeakable tragedy” as he appeared on television to declare three days of national mourning. – Standard