Almost 50 brush and forest fires broke out across Greece on Monday and early Tuesday, with several still burning, ravaging popular tourist spots in peak season.
Areas around Athens have been described as a tinderbox, after a dry winter and a summer heatwave in which temperatures have risen above 40C.
This has caused the worst Greece wildfires since blazes raged across the southern Peloponnese peninsula in August 2007, killing dozens of people. Monday saw fires tearing through a small resort town near Athens, killing at least 74 people, injuring almost 200 and forcing hundreds more to rush on to beaches and into the sea as the blaze devoured houses and cars.
Huge, fast-moving flames trapped families with children as they tried to flee from Mati, 29km east of the Greek capital. Among the dead were 26 people whose bodies were found huddled tightly together close to the beach, a Red Cross official told the Guardian on Tuesday morning.
A number of roads and evacuation routes have been blocked by the Greece wildfires, and footage of motorists escaping the area shows them driving through thick smoke.
One survivor, Nikos Stavrinidis, told ABC News that despite the air-conditioning in his car, he could still feel the heat from outside as he travelled on a highway. “We were driving along the road going into smoke, then all-of-a-sudden the flames were at the side of the car,” he said, adding: “All the houses on the hill beside the highway were completely burnt out.”
Dimitri Piros, director of medical services for Ekav, Greece’s nationwide ambulance service, told the BBC that people had suffered horrific injuries because of the speed of the fire.
Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, has declared a state of emergency in the country’s Attica region, which includes Athens, and ordered three days of national mourning.