At least 50 people have been killed including 26 at one seaside villa and a six-month-old baby as deadly forest fires rip through Greece.
Hundreds of tourists have fled to beaches while three woman and a child drowned in the sea while trying to escape flames rampaging through woodland around the Athens region.
In an ‘extreme situation’ fuelled by winds of up to 65mph and 104F (40C) temperatures, the worst Greek forest fires in a decade ripped through communities in a matter of minutes leaving lines of cars torched and farms and forests charred.
Horrified officials found 26 bodies, apparently families, huddled tightly together, many of them hugging at a villa in the coastal town of Mati, 25 miles northeast of the capital.
Greece has asked for US drones to ‘to observe and detect any suspicious activity’ as it emerged 15 fires had started at the same time in three different areas – possibly by criminals intending to ransack homes once they were abandoned by fleeing residents .
A mass evacuation is underway with military vessels, a flotilla of private boats and army helicopters mobilised to help those stuck in the harbour in Rafina, one of the worst hit areas.
The majority of the casualties were found in their homes or cars in Mati, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said. Eleven people were seriously injured, he added, as pictures emerged of scorched sunloungers and sun shades on beaches, houses burnt to the ground and people running through thick smoke and waiting in the sea to be rescued.