What to Know About the Deadly Wildfires in Greece That Are Forcing Residents to Flee Into the Sea

Greece is burning.

Wildfires flanking Athens have killed at least 49 people in Greece and injured more than 150. The fires are the worst the country has seen in a decade, the BBC reports.

The Attica Region of Greece, which includes the capital of Athens, is home to more than 3.8 million people. It’s peak tourism season in Greece, where the sector accounts for $16.2 billion annually, 8% of GDP.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has declared a state of emergency, mobilizing firefighters and military to stop the fires. Italy, Germany, Poland and France have sent planes, vehicles and firefighters to help.

Rescuers and volunteers help local people evacuate the village of Mati during a wildfire near Athens, on July 23, 2018. (ANGELOS TZORTZINIS—AFP/Getty Images)
Angelos Tzortzinis—AFP/Getty Images

The death toll jumped Tuesday morning after the Red Cross discovered 26 bodies on the lawn of a seaside villa in Mati. Rescue crews have picked up at least 700 tourists from beaches.

CNN reports that some residents in seaside villages had only one way to escape the raging flames: to flee toward the water.

Cars are blocked at the closed National Road during a wildfire in Kineta, near Athens, on Monday. (VALERIE GACHE—AFP/Getty Images)
Valerie Gache—AFP/Getty Images

AFP quoted officials who suspect that arson by house looters might have triggered the blazes. In 2007, 84 were killed by forest fires in Greece triggered by high temperatures and arson.

The U.S. Embassy in Athens issued the following travel advisory:

The first fire broke out in a pine forest near the seaside settlement of Kineta 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Athens between the capital and Corinth. Major fires broke out Monday afternoon in the area northeast of Athens (Penteli, Viotza, Mati, Rafina, and Agios Andreas). Local authorities urge residents to evacuate. The Athens Corinth National Road is currently open. The Athens Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport is open. Verify your flight schedule with your carrier.

Fueled by record high temperatures, wildfires are wreaking havoc around the world this summer, with 27 active fires in Sweden killing at least one person.

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