06:01 GMT +324 October 2018
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    Firefighters and soldiers fall back as a wildfire burns in the town of Rafina, near Athens, Greece, July 23, 2018

    'You Can Feel the Presence of Death': Greek Journalist Describes Wildfires

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    Search continues in Greece for those missing after the massive fire. The mayor of Rafina has said at least 77 people have died. High winds aided the spread of the fire, trapping many in homes and vehicles and forcing others into the sea. Sputnik spoke to Greek Journalist Christos Michaelides about the latest with fires in Athens.

    Sputnik: What’s the latest with the fire and how are the authorities dealing with the situation?

    Christos Michaelides: The weather conditions are much better today than they were yesterday. Yesterday we had gale force winds but today the weather is settled down. There are very few places where there is still small fires around the eastern suburbs of Athens but they are under control now. The areas are still very hot, there’s hot ash all around, and of course it’s a dreadful sight. I’ve been here all day and it’s not pleasant, everything is black, you can’t stand the smell and everywhere you can feel the presence of death.

    Sputnik: Has there been any indication as to how this fire started?

    Christos Michaelides: After every big fire in Athens and this has been going on for many years, there are always conflicting reports afterwards. Some say it was the product of arsonists, others say it was the extreme weather conditions. I’ve been speaking to a lot authorities from the fire department who have great experience with wild fires. In this case, they seem to agree that at 5 o’clock on Monday evening, weather conditions started changing dramatically in the east Athens area getting very strong bursts of high winds.

    Sputnik: What’s been the reaction by residents to the situation?

    Christos Michaelides: People are devastated, they are very sad about what has happened and they are angry with the authorities as well, they feel they cannot explain how it was possible in a city that people have died because of a fire spread by the wind. They know and news reports are saying the authorities knew from meteorologists that we were going to have these extreme weather conditions on Monday. They were informed of them, two days beforehand. The press is criticising the government quite strongly, although they knew the extreme weather conditions were expected there was no preparation.

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    wildfires, Rafina, Athens, Greece
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