Wildfires in Greece leave at least 74 dead and dozens injured

A number of Irish people have been caught up in the wildfires

Wildfires in Greece leave at least 74 dead and dozens injured

Buildings burn in the town of Mati, east of Athens. Picture by: Thanassis Stavrakis/AP/Press Association Images

Updated 19:25

A number of Irish people have been caught up in the devastating wildfires in Greece.

At least 74 people have died after wildfires erupted near the capital Athens.

Officials have confirmed a further 187 people - including 23 children - are being treated in hospital for their injuries.

A six-month-old child is said to be among those who have died.

This evening the Department of Foreign Affairs said it was "providing consular assistance to a number of individuals" caught up in the wildfires.

The Greek fire brigade confirmed the rising death toll after fires, which began on Monday, destroyed seaside resorts near Athens, in the towns of Mati and Rafina to the east of the city and Kineta to the west.

The death toll rose significantly on Monday after it was reported by a Red Cross official that 26 bodies were found huddled together near a beach.

They are believed to be families who were fleeing the inferno - some were hugging when they were found.

National mourning

Three days of national mourning have been declared by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who said the country is facing hours of "battle, unity, courage and above all solidarity".

Mati, which is around 40km from Athens, appears to have been the worst affected area - although authorities are also tackling fires elsewhere in the region.

Picture by: Christoph Soeder/DPA/PA Images

The blazes broke out in the Attica region, which encompasses the Greek capital and various holiday resorts.

Firefighters reported that high winds caused the flames to spread quickly and suddenly.

According to Reuters, people fled into the sea as the flames approached the shore, before being rescued by passing boats.

Dozens of homes and buildings have also been destroyed as a result of the fires, and people have been forced to flee their homes in some affected areas.

A plane flies over the smoke and fire coming the town of Mati, east of Athens. Picture by: Thanassis Stavrakis/AP/Press Association Images

Greek authorities are requesting air and ground assistance from other EU countries, with hundreds of firefighters already involved in the effort to tackle the fires.

Cyprus and Spain are said to have already offered assistance.

Prime Minister Tsipras - who returned from Bosnia yesterday to help coordinate the response to the deadly fires - has moved to reassure the Greek public.

He said: "I want to believe that despite the adverse weather conditions, we will do whatever is humanly possible to get the fires under control.

"We must at this moment all be in a constant state of alert - we must be united and make the effort to face an exceptionally difficulty situation."

Condolences

President Michael D. Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar are among the world leaders who have offered their condolences.

President Higgins wrote to his Greek counterpart today expressing his sympathies "with the families of those who lost their lives and livelihoods in the tragic fires."

In a statement he said he remains "very conscious of the resilience of the Greek people, who should be assisted by all of us in these difficult times." 

"In the letter to President Pavlopoulos I offered, on behalf of the people of Ireland, our deepest condolences and our solidarity," he said.