With the official death toll from wildfires in Greece now standing at 63, anger is mounting about the lack of firefighters in many areas. Local TV stations have broadcast emotional appeals for helicopters and fire engines from residents in villages surrounded by flames.
An estimated 90 blazes are reported in various districts and overstretched local brigades say they cannot cope without outside assistance. That expertise is arriving every hour but for many it will come too late. Observers say the fires are likely to dominate political debate ahead of elections on September 16. Thousands of people have been forced to abandon their homes to flames that are raging for the fourth day.
In Athens, newspapers have slammed the authorities, while people try to comprehend the scale of the disaster. One woman said: “None of my friends has suffered, but I feel very bad for everyone who has. Even if everything is paid for, all that has been lost will never return.” A man said: “What can I say? I’m devastated. Should I speak about human lives? The ecological destruction? About the economy, the agricultural sector which has been destroyed? I can’t find words. I don’t think any Greek can.”
An official mourning period is being observed for the victims of the fires, many of which are thought to have been deliberately lit.