RESCUE crews are searching through charred homes and cars for those still missing after the deadliest wildfires to hit Greece in decades decimated seaside areas near Athens.

The death toll now stands at 81, with 186 people seriously injured and about 100 people missing.

With such a high number of people still missing, authorities are bracing for the death toll to reach triple digits.

The story of one man desperately searching for his children highlights the plight of many families looking for relatives.

Yiannis Philipopoulos appeared on television early on Wednesday appealing for help to locate his missing twin daughters, who he said he had spotted on television footage arriving in the port of Rafina in a fishing boat during the evacuation of people from beaches overnight Monday to Tuesday.

Mr Philipopoulos said he and his wife recognised 9-year-old Sophia and Vasiliki in the news footage after spending a fruitless day searching hospitals and giving DNA samples at the Athens morgue.

He had contacted police, who were helping search for the girls.

Mr Philipopoulos said the girls had been with his parents, of whom there was no sight in the footage.

Speaking on television stations Skai and Alpha, he said the images gave him hope his children were alive, and urged anyone with information to contact him.

The footage showed two girls among other people, many clad just in swimsuits, disembarking from the fishing boat.

Mr Philipopoulos said he went with police to the TV station and saw the footage in higher resolution, and was sure the children were his daughters. But he had not heard from them since the fire.

The captain of the fishing boat said authorities had recorded the names of rescued people as they disembarked.

The names of the two girls, however, appeared not to be among them.

Meanwhile sadness has turned to anger as residents say the death toll could have been much lower if the country had an effective plan to deal with natural disasters.

Reports suggest children jumped off cliffs into the sea to avoid the fires, while others burned alive in their cars trying to escape and some drowned as they ran into the sea for safety.

Costas Synolakis, a professor of natural disasters in the Technical University of Crete, told CNBC that Greece’s emergency services were ill prepared and acted too slowly.

“It is undoubtedly a national tragedy. There was no evacuation plan. Unfortunately, the Greek Civil Protection Agency is only thinking about the firefighting and not giving enough importance on civil protection and preparation,” he said.

Professor Synolakis said within a minute a fire like this one could be extinguished with a glass of water, in two minutes it would take a bucket of water, in three minutes with a tank of water and “after that we do our best”.

“There had not been any drill on how to evacuate this area, and no experience for how much time will be needed to safely rescue, for example, 100 people. As a result, even the locals did not know where to go when the fire threatened them. To say it schematically, it’s like being on a sinking ship and you do not know where to go to be saved,” he said.

Mati resident Nana Laganou told journalists that the fire was “lightning fast” and believes the government could have done more.

“I would have liked to see some (reaction) from the state, but we didn’t and we won’t and that makes me angry,” she said.

The Nea daily criticised the government’s “inability to protect its citizens just a few kilometres from Athens”.

The front page of the Ethnos newspaper showed a charred Greek flag with the headline: “Armageddon.”

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras cut short a visit to Bosnia and announced three days of national mourning, calling the fire an “asymmetrical” phenomenon.

Mr Tsipras chaired a meeting of his emergency management committee on Wednesday though no statement was issued.


Greece’s European neighbours have sent firefighting aircraft and offered support in the wake of the devastating fires.

European Council President Donald Tusk said that help was on its way.

EU Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein told reporters: “During these difficult times, we stand side-by-side with the Greek people and authorities and I commend the tireless and courageous efforts of the emergency responders.

“Everything possible will be done to provide support today, tomorrow and for as long as it takes.”

The Commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management is helping to co-ordinate the EU’s response in Athens.

Italy has sent two Canadair planes and Romania a third, with both due to arrive overnight, according to Greece’s public order minister.

Spain has already sent a further two Canadair-type planes.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is offering her country’s help to fight the fires.

Ms Merkel said that “in these difficult hours Germany stands firmly by the side of our Greek friends.”

“You can be sure of our willingness to provide support in coping with the fire disaster,” she said.