GREECE Death toll from wildfires hits 74

Associated Press

RAFINA, Greece

The death toll from Greece’s deadliest wildfires in decades climbed to 74 Tuesday as rescue crews searched on land and sea for those who sought to escape the blazes that engulfed popular summer resort spots near Athens.

The number of victims appeared set to go even higher, with crews checking charred homes and vehicles and the coast guard scouring beaches and deeper waters.

There was no definitive count of the missing.

Fueled by 50 mph winds that frequently changed direction, the fires – one to the west of Athens near the town of Kineta and another to the northeast near the port of Rafina – spread at speeds that surprised many, trapping hundreds on beaches and cutting off escape routes.

All the casualties appeared to be from the fire near Rafina, a popular seaside area that is a mix of permanent residences and vacation homes.

The blaze broke out Monday afternoon during a hot, dry spell but the cause was not immediately clear.

Aerial photos showed charred swathes of forest and homes.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras declared three days of national mourning.

Although it had abated by Tuesday afternoon, the blaze was far from extinguished and more than 230 firefighters were still trying to put it out.

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