18 bodies found in Greek forest hit by wildfires

Eighteen bodies have been found in a forested area of northern Greece hit by wildfires for the past four days, the Greek fire service says.

Initial reports suggest those who died may have been migrants. A coroner and investigation team are heading to the scene in the Dadia forest.

The Evros region of north-eastern Greece, not far from the Turkish border, has been ravaged by fires.

A hospital in the city of Alexandroupolis had to be evacuated.

Newborn babies and intensive care patients were among patients moved overnight to a ferry berthed at the port.

An earlier death, also believed to have been a migrant, had been reported in a village close to the coastal city and emergency services had sent mobile text messages to the surrounding areas asking people to leave.

The Dadia national park is a large wooded area to the north of Alexandroupolis, and fires are thought to have spread rapidly there since yesterday.

The 18 bodies were found on Tuesday close to the village of Avantas, reports said, when the fire brigade inspected the charred remains of a building.

Fire service spokesman Ioannis Artophios said the possibility was being investigated that the victims had entered Greece illegally, given that there had been no reports of missing residents.

The Evros region has become one of the most popular routes for Syrian and Asian migrants crossing the River Evros from Turkey into the European Union. The Dadia forest is also known to be a route favoured by migrants.

Fires are raging elsewhere in Greece, whipped up by high winds and temperatures which were set to reach 39C (102F) on Tuesday.

Several villages have been evacuated on the island of Evia and in Boeotia in central Greece. Dozens of nuns were reported trapped when a fire broke out near a monastery to the north-west of Athens.

A fiery, red glow was visible on the fringe of Alexandroupolis in the early hours of Tuesday and satellite images showed several regions of Greece covered in thick smoke.

During the night residents in eight nearby villages were told to leave their homes and head for safety in the city. Later on Tuesday, a stream of cars could be seen heading for the city as vegetation along the coast burned.

Flames were seen entering the grounds of the university hospital while the operation was taking place to evacuate the site on the north-east fringe of the city. Greek officials ordered a fleet of ambulances and buses to take some 115 patients away.

While some of the patients were moved to other hospitals in the city, as many as 90 were taken to a ferry, the Adamantios Korais, which has been requisitioned to look after intensive care and new-born babies. (BBC)


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