Scores dead in Greece as wildfires engulf Attica region

At least 50 people found dead and 'eight tourists missing' as apocalyptic wildfires trigger state of emergency in Greece

Flags across Greece were flying at half-mast after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras declared three days of national mourning for the victims. "I haven't heard from them".

More than 400 firefighters and volunteer firefighters were battling the two fires near Athens, supported by seven water-dropping helicopters and three aircraft. And neighboring country Turkey said it is willing to send people and material to help in extinguishing the fires and with the rescue efforts.

The fire which hit Mati, 29 km (18 miles) east of the capital, late Monday afternoon was by far the country's worst since flames devastated the southern Peloponnese peninsula in August 2007, killing dozens.

He compared the ordeal to the destruction of the city of Pompeii, where thousands were incinerated by the volcano of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD: "I said my God, we must run to save ourselves and nothing else".

A wildfire killed at least 50 people and injured more than 150 as it swept through a small resort town near Athens, with huge flames trapping families with children as they fled.

The fires, which engulfed homes and vehicles, started burning out of control on both sides of Athens on Monday, with the areas around Rafina and Kineta being the hardest-hit.

"It will be very painful, we will then have the identification ... the funerals, more pain", said Evangelos Bournous, the mayor of Rafina-Pikermi, an area close to Mati.

Wildfires are not uncommon in Greece, and a relatively dry winter helped create the current tinder-box conditions. Israel also said that disaster teams are ready to help Greece if they are needed.

Raging wildfires killed 74 people in Greece, devouring homes and forests as terrified residents fled to the sea to escape the flames, authorities said yesterday, reports AFP.

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Some people tried to escape on highways only to be surrounded by walls of fire. "Yannis told us to get our stuff but we didn't even have time for that, the flames were already here".

Some people swam out hoping that boats would come to their rescue. "It's just that we can't find her. We had to swim out because of the smoke, but we couldn't see where anything was", he said.

The coastguard and other ships have rescued nearly 700 people who fled the coast by jumping into the ocean, and pulled survivors and bodies from the sea, the BBC reported.

A father whose twin daughters have been missing since wildfires broke out in Greece on Monday thought he spotted them alive on TV on a rescue boat but it turned out it wasn't them.

To cope, Greece sought worldwide help through the European Union.

"It's a hard night for Greece", Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said late Monday after cutting short a trip to Bosnia and returning to Athens.

After temperatures climbed to 40 degrees Celsius, forecasters said conditions would remain challenging on Tuesday, although showers and falling temperatures were expected in Athens.

- Becatoros reported from Athens.

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