On July 23, a fire started on Mount Penteli in Attica. Its outcome was deadly, with 90 dead so far, 187 injured, and according to the official figures, another 23 are missing.
Greece is a country where wildfires are common; long, dry summers combined with high winds in late summer along with the evergreen trees, are a recipe for disaster.
As far as conditions are concerned — whatever could go wrong did: winds up to 100 km/h drove the fire directly onto two settlements, Neos Voutzas and Mati. The fire moved with great speed; from its starting point on Mount Penteli, it crossed the nearly four kilometers toward the coast in about one hour.
There have been wildfires in the area in the past; what stopped them from entering the settlements up until now was the “blackline” of Marathon Highway, a four-lane road. This time, the high winds allowed the fire to cross the street, with no other obstacles in its way. The people living in the area had known for decades how insufficient this was and the mantra each summer was, “Let’s hope it will not cross the highway.” As Mati is a settlement with few beaches and most of its coast consists of 7-8 meters cliffs with jagged rocks at the bottom, the people there knew they would have limited avenues of escape.