Putin offers Greece help in combating wildfires

Forest fires: Greece declares state of emergency, asks for international aid

Forest fires: Greece declares state of emergency, asks for international aid

The small community, a popular tourist resort with Greek holiday-makers around 30km east of Athens, has been among the worst areas hit by the devastating blazes.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras cut short a visit to Bosnia on Monday and returned to Athens to preside over an emergency response meeting with fire chiefs and government officials.

"They had tried to find an escape route but unfortunately these people and their kids didn't make it in time".

"Mati doesn't even exist as a settlement anymore", one woman was quoted by Reuters as telling Greece's Skai TV.

The strong smell of charred buildings and trees lingered in the air in parts of Mati on Tuesday, where white smoke rose from smouldering fires. A local mayor said he saw at least 100 homes and 200 cars engulfed in flames. The eerie silence was punctured by fire-fighting helicopters and the chatter of rescue crews.

Two people died on a motorbike, one in a vehicle and another underneath a auto, all in what appeared to be a traffic queue heading for the safety of a nearby beach.

Evangelos Bournos, the mayor of Rafina-Pikermi, said the death toll is likely to reach three figures, adding that almost 2,000 homes have been destroyed.

"They caught fire. I ran out like a insane person, got to the beach and put my head in the water".

Meanwhile in addition to the rising death toll, a number of people have been reported missing, some of whom are said to be tourists.

One of the youngest victims was thought to be a six-month-old baby who died of smoke inhalation, officials said.

Authorities were trying to evacuate inhabitants, Tzanakopoulos said early Tuesday, while searches for further victims continued.

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A newly-married man from Co Meath has been confirmed dead after he and his wife were caught up in wildfires that have been sweeping Greece. Some took to Twitter and Facebook, posting photographs of young children and elderly couples they hoped to locate.

Cyprus, Spain, Italy, Croatia and Portugal have responded to Greece's appeal for help to tackle the fires.

Greece has also sought worldwide help through the European Union and Spain is sending two firefighting aircraft while Cyprus has sent in 60 firefighters.

"I have today written to the President of the Hellenic Republic, HE Mr Prokopis Pavlopoulos, to express my sympathies with the families of those who lost their lives and livelihoods in the tragic fires in the Attica region".

Fires have also raged for five days in Latvia, destroying more than 800 hectares in the Baltic state's western regions.

Authorities said they would use an unmanned drone from the United States to monitor and track any suspicious activity.

Several other northern European countries are also struggling to contain forest fires.

Wildfires are not uncommon in Greece, but a relatively dry winter created tinder box conditions.

It was not immediately clear how any of the fires started.

Flames rise as a wildfire burns in the town of Rafina, near Athens.

The Spanish government says it has sent two amphibious planes to help fight the twin forest fires in seaside areas of Greece that have killed almost 50 people and injured more than 100.

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