Two children among 18 killed in blazes

Country once again enveloped by ring of fire with dozens of active fronts

Two children among 18 killed in blazes

Eighteen people died in the village of Avantas in Evros, northeastern Greece, where fires raged on Tuesday for a fourth straight day, along with dozens of new blazes.

The victims, which included two children, are believed to be migrants who apparently had not been informed of the fire’s progress.

“There were a total of 18 charred bodies, all of them male and two of them children. They were found in groups of two or three across a distance of 500 meters, apparently while trying to flee. Some of them were in a barn when they burned to death,” a coroner, Pavlos Pavlidis, said on Tuesday after examining the charred bodies in the port town of Alexandroupoli. 

According to a high-ranking officer of the Hellenic Police, the spot where they were found is not along the route that migrants usually follow, that is, through the mountainous area from the borderline to the interior of the country. They had apparently chosen to move to the foothills of the Rodopi mountain range, with the consequence that they became trapped by the wildfire.

Migration Minister Dimitris Keridis said he received news of the deaths “with great sadness.”

“Despite the constant and persistent efforts of the Greek authorities to protect the borders and human life, this tragedy confirms, once again, the dangers of irregular migration,” the minister said. “In this context, we once more highlight and denounce the murderous activity of criminal traffickers (and those who facilitate them) and the trade in irregular flows, which is what endangers the lives of many migrants both on land and at sea every day.”

As of late Tuesday, the Fire Department was battling 14 major fire fronts, under adverse conditions with strong winds.

In Attica, fires were raging in Fili and Aspropyrgos, while residents in Gennimata and Kanala in Ano Liosia, in the northwestern part of the Athens agglomeration, were urged to evacuate to Liosia due to wildfires in the area, in a 112 emergency alert.

Authorities also ordered that the capital’s main landfill at Fyli be closed until further notice.

In Alexandroupoli in northeast Greece, the fire that broke out on Saturday was still burning.

The Rodopi region was affected by two fronts as was the forest of Dadia, which was still burning in Evros. Fires wee also active in Evia, Dialekto in Kavala and Viotia.

The large wildfire in Aspropyrgos, western Greece, reached the perimeter of the Hellenic Air Force’s 112 Combat Wing at Elefsina Air Base earlier on Tuesday but was quickly stopped, Greek media reported.

Part of the air base houses the firefighting fleet of Canadair aircraft. The flames approached the base from the side of the Hellenic Air Force Support Command (HAFSC), according to military sources.

In general, evacuation orders were also sent to residents in the Lofos Kyrillou area in Mandra, Attica; Gratini in Komotini; Agios Kosmas in Kavala; and Makri, Dikella, Agia Paraskevi and Mesimvria in Alexandroupoli.

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