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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 August 2007, 12:55 GMT 13:55 UK
Witnesses tell of Greek fire horror
Burned out cars in Artemida, Greece
Some residents left Artemida in time, but others were stranded
People affected by wildfires raging across Greece have described scenes of carnage and grief, as emergency crews battle to bring the infernos under control.

"It's a Biblical catastrophe, the sight is horrible. I saw people burned alive in their cars," said Christos Kafiras, the prefect of the department of Ilia, after visiting the epicentre of the firestorm, near the town of Zaharo in western Peloponnese.

"It's a tragedy," another witness told Greek television.

"I can see the burnt bodies of a mother holding her child in her arms. Further away there are more bodies. It's terrible."

A villager living near Zaharo, Stathis Kokaliaris, directed his anger towards the authorities.

"It's a catastrophe. It's ridiculous that no protection exists for the people here," he said.

Leaving home

Relatives of those killed in the village of Artemida, near Zaharo, returned to find their loved ones' burned-out cars standing on a charred hillside.

Antonis Babis was searching for his missing wife.

We are deeply saddened about the Peloponnese but this is also devastating
Angeliki Spanou
Athens resident
"What can I tell you? Last night, two or three of us stayed here. We could see dead people on the road, some of them we couldn't recognise," he said.

"I don't know where my wife is. What can I tell you?"

Fitis Stavropoulos managed to escape in time, taking his family to the safety of the coast.

"I took my children, grandchildren and wife to the sea and I came back. Every house was on fire, nobody showed up except the neighbours. We didn't have even the smallest amount of help," he said.

A helicopter carries water to a burning corner of Athens (picture: Yannis Natsis)
A BBC reader sent pictures of helicopters fighting fires in Athens
Dimitra Vlasopolou said she was stranded in Artemida with no means to leave.

"I don't have a family here. They are in Athens. My husband is dead. I spent the whole night here alone. I didn't see anybody.

"How could I leave since I don't have any transport?"

Some residents of Athens also felt threatened by fires burning at the foot of Mount Hymettus, east of the capital, where some districts were being evacuated.

"We are deeply saddened about the Peloponnese but this is also devastating," said Angeliki Spanou, a resident in the Holargos suburb of Athens.

A BBC News website reader, Steve Taylore-Knowles, watched from his Athens balcony as planes and helicopters tipped water on the flames.

"For the last few hours there's been a huge pall of smoke and fires burning at the foot of the mountain," he said.

He also said he had heard explosions, and said although the area near the fire was not one of Athens' most populated, it was "clearly threatening homes".

"But there's much less smoke now," he said. "It seems they may have got it under control."


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