Eighteen people believed to be refugees have been found dead in a forest in northeastern Greece where a wildfire had been raging, according to the fire department.
The bodies were found near the national park of Dadia, a region bordering Turkey that is a frequent entry point for migrants and refugees, fire department spokesman Yiannis Artopios said in a televised address on Tuesday.
Al Jazeera’s John Psaropoulos, reporting from Athens, said there were no reports of missing persons in nearby towns and villages, “and that is what’s leading to the theory that these people are unregistered migrants who have crossed the border and we’re hiding out of the way of police”.
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“Local media are now making a mention of eight more bodies, so a possible total of 26, charred bodies in that area,” he said.
The latest confirmed deaths pushed the overall toll from this week’s fires to 20, after another suspected asylum seeker was found dead in the area on Monday.
An elderly shepherd was found dead north of Athens on Monday.
“It’s a similar situation to July,” a fire department spokeswoman told the AFP news agency, referring to a wave in several parts of the country that left five people dead.
Six countries were sending help via the European Union’s civil protection mechanism, the fire department said.
About 120 firefighters from Cyprus, Romania, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Germany and Serbia will pitch in, fire department spokesman Vassilis Vathrakogiannis told state TV ERT.A school, several homes and a cemetery were damaged in two villages near Alexandroupolis, where more than 200 firefighters were battling the flames, supported by four airplanes and three helicopters.
Dozens more houses were damaged by another wildfire in the Kavala region, local authorities said.
A separate fire in the Evros border region was burning through forest in a protected national park, with satellite imagery showing smoke from the Evros region blanketing much of northern and western Greece.
Near Athens, a new fire broke out in the Aspropyrgos area on the capital’s western fringes Tuesday morning, prompting authorities to issue evacuation orders for two villages in the area.The fire risk level for several regions, including the wider Athens area, was listed as “extreme” for the second day on Tuesday.
Authorities have banned public access to mountains and forests in those regions until at least Wednesday morning and ordered military patrols.
Greece suffers destructive wildfires every summer. Its deadliest wildfire killed 104 people in 2018, at a seaside resort near Athens that residents had not been warned to evacuate.
Authorities have since erred on the side of caution, issuing swift mass evacuation orders whenever inhabited areas are under threat.