A house is shown burning during a wildfire in Avanta, near Alexandroupolis, in northern Greece. Hot, dry and windy conditions have seen dozens of wildfires break out across the country.
© Sakis Mitrolidis
A house is shown burning during a wildfire in Avanta, near Alexandroupolis, in northern Greece. Hot, dry and windy conditions have seen dozens of wildfires break out across the country.
Greek firefighters found the bodies of 18 people in an area of northeastern Greece ravaged by a major wildfire burning for days, authorities said Tuesday.

Greek police activated the country's Disaster Victim Identification Team to identify the bodies, which were found near a shack in the Avanta area in the northeastern Alexandroupolis region, Ioannis Artopios, a spokesperson for the fire department, said in a televised statement.

Given no reports of missing people had been filed in the area, authorities were examining the possibility the casualties were migrants who had entered the country from the nearby border with Turkey, Artopios said.

Hot, dry and windy conditions have seen dozens of wildfires break out across the country. On Monday, two people died and two firefighters were injured in separate fires in northern and central Greece.


The fire risk level for several regions, including the wider Athens area, was listed as "extreme" for the second day on Tuesday. Authorities have banned public access to mountains and forests in those regions until at least Wednesday morning and ordered military patrols.

In northeastern Greece, a massive wall of flames raced through forests toward Alexandroupolis overnight, prompting authorities to evacuate another eight villages and the city's hospital. The flames turned the sky over the city and across the region red, hiding the sun as choking smoke and swirling flecks of ash filled the air.

Hospital patients relocated

About 65 of the more than 100 patients in the Alexandroupolis hospital were transported to a ferry boat docked in the city's port, while others were taken to other hospitals in northern Greece. The ferry set sail later Tuesday morning to transport the patients west to the port town of Kavala, where they were to be transferred to another hospital.

Deputy Health Minister Dimitris Vartzopoulos, speaking on Greece's Skai television, said smoke and ash in the air around the Alexandrouplolis hospital was the main reason behind the decision to evacuate the facility.

"We evacuated within four hours," Vartzopoulos said.

A school, several homes and a cemetery were damaged in two villages near Alexandroupolis, where more than 200 firefighters were battling the flames, supported by four airplanes and three helicopters. Dozens more houses were damaged by another wildfire in the Kavala region, local authorities said.

Near Athens, a new fire broke out in the Aspropyrgos area on the capital's western fringes Tuesday morning, prompting authorities to issue evacuation orders for two villages in the area.

Romania sent 56 firefighters and Cyprus sent two water-dropping aircraft to help fight the wildfire in Alexandroupolis, while French firefighters helped tackle a separate fire on the island of Evia.

Greece suffers destructive wildfires every summer. Its deadliest wildfire killed 104 people in 2018, at a seaside resort near Athens that residents had not been warned to evacuate. Authorities have since erred on the side of caution, issuing swift mass evacuation orders whenever inhabited areas are under threat.

Last month, a wildfire on the resort island of Rhodes forced the evacuation of some 20,000 tourists. Days later, two air force pilots were killed when their water-dropping plane crashed while diving low to tackle a blaze on Evia. Another three wildfire-related deaths have been recorded this summer.

Source: AP