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As Flaming Pine Cones Rained Down, Their Only Option: Swim

Wildfire death toll in Greece now stands at 80
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 25, 2018 11:28 AM CDT

(Newser) – The death toll in Greece stands at 80 in the wake of devastating and fast-moving wildfires that struck near Athens Monday during what Reuters describes as a late afternoon siesta time. Much of the focus has been on Mati, a seaside town frequented by area tourists. Many fled into the sea to survive, but others were stymied by steep cliffs and suffocated. More remain missing. The latest on what one local paper describes as "Armageddon":

  • The AP offers this treacherous description: "Survivors described dramatic scenes of people fleeing to beaches and being forced to swim out to sea despite gale-force winds and high waves to escape choking smoke and flaming pine cones raining down into the water."
  • Reuters reports on a challenge ahead: identifying the dead. "The majority of the bodies are totally charred," says one forensic scientist who explains that forensic dentistry experts will assist in the effort.

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  • The AP has the story of one couple who survived by staying put in their home after realizing the streets were blocked by cars. Anna Kiriazova, 56, says the fire came upon them quickly, and that she and her 65-year-old husband wet their home using a garden hose, closed their shutters, put towels on their faces, and waited out an hourlong blaze. She believes the fact their window frames are metal, not wood, may have kept their home from being engulfed. "I have no words to describe what we lived through."
  • As for how many houses are now uninhabitable, the mayor of the Marathon district, which includes Mati, shares the toll, per the Guardian: "Of the 1,900 houses in Mati and the 1,100 in Neos Voutzas, two-thirds must have burned." The head of the Athens Chamber of Commerce put it even more starkly: "The area can only be compared to Syria on a day of heavy bombardment."
  • As for those cars used in getaways, CNN reports the roads of Mati feature dried puddles of molten aluminum, left in places where the heat of the fire caused the cars' metal to melt.
  • As for the missing, the Guardian reports an Irish newlywed is among them. Brian O'Callaghan-Westropp and Zoe Holohan tried to escape in a car but were forced to exit it. Holohan made it to the beach; O'Callaghan-Westropp remains missing. The Irish Times reports the two were married Thursday and flew to Greece for their honeymoon two days later.
(Read more Greece stories.)

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