At least 74 people have died in wildfires raging close to a Greek town that ‘no longer exists’, authorities said today.
Fire service spokeswoman Stavroula Malliri said the death toll had risen from 50 and the full number of missing people is still unknown.
At least 187 people, including 23 children, have been injured in the horrific fires that have raged through seaside resorts near Athens. Hundreds more had been dragged from the sea where they had flocked to escape the inferno.
An entire family were killed in Mati, a town which officials said ‘no longer exists’ because of the fires that have torn through the country.
Rescuers discovered 26 bodies, including those of small children, huddled together at one holiday compound, some of them hugging.
They were found just 30 metres away from the sea after being unable to find a route away from the fires in Mati.
It is believed they huddled together in a bid to protect themselves from the fire which was fuelled by 60mph winds.
The charred bodies in Mati were entwined in groups in ‘a final attempt to protect themselves’, said rescuer Vassilis Andriopoulos.
The number of dead outpaces the death toll of 2007, one of the worst on record, where about 70 individuals died from fires in the southern Peloponnese region.
Two of the largest fires broke out 20 miles north-east of Athens near Rafina and the other 30 miles west of the capital in Kineta.
Both were fanned by gale-force winds which hampered firefighting efforts and sent hundreds of people fleeing to beaches, from where they were evacuated on boats late at night.
Winds of more than 60 mph in Mati caused a ‘sudden progression of fire’ through the village, fire service spokeswoman Malliri said.
‘Mati no longer exists,’ the mayor of nearby Rafina, Evangelos Bournous added.