This article originally appeared on VICE Greece.
On Tuesday, at least 74 people were confirmed dead, and around 150 injured, as wildfires spread through the Greek region of Attica, just outside Athens. Local authorities and rescue agencies expect the death toll to rise as dozens of people in the area are still missing.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has declared a state of emergency and three days of national mourning, as the government works to find out who or what caused the fire.
The highest single number of casualties was in the port town of Rafina, where 26 bodies were recovered on a plot of land a short distance from the beach. The police suspect that the victims were trapped by the intense smoke before they could reach the sea. Fire fighters, rescue agencies, and volunteers have so far saved around 700 people who fled to beaches across Attica to escape the flames.
In Rafina this morning, the police cordoned off the area where the victims were found, though from where I was standing, I could still see white sheets covering bodies on the ground. "Some of the victims were part of a family," a volunteer by the name of Nikos Andiopoulos told me. "They died hugging each other."
To get to this spot I passed dozens of burned-out homes, some still smoldering. "This is my cousin's house," said Spyros Hatziandreou, just after arriving on the scene. "I've been trying to call her phone but she's not picking up."
On the road leading into the area fire engines had to carefully maneuver around burned, overturned cars that had crashed during the chaos of the escape. Nearby, Theodoros Zouzoulas sat in the courtyard of his still smoking home. "Everything is destroyed," he told me. Like Zouzoulas, Costas Boufi was able to make it to the beach in time. "My home seemed to burn down in about ten seconds," Boufi said.
Savina owns four large homes in the adjacent plot. Three of the buildings burned down to their foundations, but the fourth remained completely untouched by the flames. "I have no idea what has happened here," Savina said, still in shock. "I've told my neighbors that they are welcome to come over, but I'm worried that the sight of my remaining home might upset them."
This story has been updated.
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