The kitten lay on the ground so perfectly still that passing volunteer rescuers had initially written her off as just another of the many victims – human and animal – of this week's ferocious wildfires near Athens. But then came a hint of life – the frail feline began crying out and slowly moving her tiny body, singed by heat and flames.
Rescuers turned her over to veterinarians at Vets 4 Life, a pet clinic in Pikermi just west of the coastal resorts of Rafina and Mati, sites devastated by the blaze.
Clinic veterinarians have so far treated around 70 animals injured in the fire, some four times normal numbers during this period. At least 83 humans perished in Monday's deadly blaze, and rescue crews are still combing the devastated area of Mati in search of dead and injured.
"It's just crazy in here, people trying to get help, looking for their pets, crying all the time and we're trying to help the animals, we're trying to take care of their burns, their wounds and it's very difficult," Vet Irene Mavrakis told the Associated Press.
Mavrakis was among those volunteers out on patrol, sometimes confronting the macabre sight of dead pets still chained up on their owners' property. Many of the cats and dogs that survived had suffered broken limbs, said Mavrakis. Others sustained more severe injuries including a cat brought in with its eyes burnt.
"It's not only the trauma on their body, you see the animals are scared, they don't trust anybody," Mavrakis said.
She said one problem faced by area residents who fled the advancing flames was that they couldn't bring pets to hotels where they relocated.
Most rescued pets at the clinic have yet to be reclaimed by their owners, Mavrakis said, with only five of the dozen dogs brought in reclaimed.
The rescued kitten is now set for a new life with local resident Evangelia Gkika, who has adopted her and renamed her Fire.
"I asked which is the worst animal from the fire and they showed me this," Gkika said. "And it was love at first sight." [AP]