Greece appeals for help as forest blazes force residents to flee

KINETA, Greece – Greece issued an urgent appeal for help to tackle forest fires which raged uncontrolled in several places across the country on Monday, destroying homes, disrupting major transport links and sending people fleeing for their lives.

One person died in a blaze east of Athens, and at least 25 people were injured. Authorities were also investigating reports that up to 10 tourists, possibly Danish, were missing after heading out on a boat to escape.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras cut short a visit to Bosnia because of the crisis, which has stretched Greece‘s firefighting abilities to full capacity.

"We will do whatever is humanly possible to control it," said Tsipras. But he hinted that so many fires at once needed further scrutiny."

"I‘m concerned at the simultaneous outbreaks both east and west of Attica," he said.

Greece said it needed air and land assets from its European Union partners as the Attica region was engulfed in some of the worst fires the country has seen since 2007, when dozens of people died. Cyprus has already offered to send fire engines and personnel.

Fires were raging west of Athens, and in a densely-populated area to its east. In the eastern area of Rafina, some people were stranded on a beach, while boats were picking up individuals who had jumped into the water to protect themselves from the blaze.

Reuters witnesses reported seeing a hillside of homes gutted by flames east of Athens. A local mayor said he saw at least 100 homes burning, and 200 vehicles.

Greek authorities urged residents of a coastal region west of Athens to abandon their homes as a wildfire burned ferociously, closing one of Greece‘s busiest motorways, halting train links and sending plumes of smoke over the capital.

The cause is unknown.