"They had tried to find an escape route but unfortunately these people and their kids didn't make it in time. Instinctively, seeing the end nearing, they embraced." That's the head of Greece's Red Cross commenting on a devastating scene: A group of 26 people who died just 100 feet from the sea and were apparently found hugging one another. They were victims of fast-moving wildfires near Athens that, according to one local official, have claimed 60 lives thus far. And an official with Greece's ambulance service says that number will rise as charred homes and cars are searched. "Unfortunately, at this stage, we do not expect to find more people injured, only more dead," he tells the New York Times.
The largest of the fires, which began late Monday, are located near Rafina, roughly 15 miles east of Athens, and Kineta, about 30 miles west. The aforementioned dead in the seaside village of Mati, which is in the Rafina region, didn't make it to the water but others have: The Coast Guard and about 30 private boats have taken some 700 people away from the flames; at least four who tried to flee drowned. One survivor tells the BBC of the fires, "It burned our backs and we dived into the water ... I said, 'My God, we must run to save ourselves.'" One photographer reports seeing charred remains just 50 feet from the sea. Greece hasn't seen a fire this deadly since 60 died in the Peloponnese region in 2007. Reuters reports the fire that hit Mati had slowed as of Tuesday, with winds that had been as high as 50mph losing that strength. (Read more Greece stories.)