Wildfires kill dozens in Greece

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At least 49 people have died and dozens more remain missing after wildfires swept through the dry Greek countryside near Athens.

The fire service confirmed the known number of casualties and said many of the dead are believed to be young children.

The death toll rose rapidly after 26 bodies were discovered in a yard in the seaside city of Mati, which is close to the centre of the disaster.

Emergency services and members of the public have launched a major rescue effort to evacuate those stranded on beaches near the fire to safety by boat and helicopter.

The fire service has called on people near the fires to evacuate their homes and get to safety, but transport routes out of the area have been impacted with authorities forced to close the motorway connecting Attica to the Peloponnese peninsula and suspend train services due to the fire and smoke.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras cut short his planned visit to Bosnia and returned to Athens. He told reporters that Greek authorities will do “whatever is humanly possible to control” the fires.

Greece has called for assistance from EU partners and the international community to help in tackle the fire and bring it under control.

Wildfires are relatively common in Greece during the long hot summers, but the speed at which the fires spread this week appears to have caught authorities by surprise. Citizens’ Protection Minister Nikos Toskas suggested arsonists may be responsible for starting the fires.

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