Raging Wildfire Kills 50 People in Athens, Greece; Other EU Countries Reporting Blazes too
Photo of wildfire raging near Athens, Greece. (Photo: Twitter, KaloyanPargov)

At least 50 people have died and many more injured as wildfires erupted through woodlands and villages around the Greek capital of Athens.

The death toll rose on Tuesday after 26 bodies were found near the harbour town of Rafina, according to Red Cross workers. The authorities had previously announced 24 deaths.

Hundreds of firefighters have been battling the blazes and the authorities are seeking international assistance. "We will do whatever is humanly possible to control it," Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told reporters. The Prime Minister also announced a State of emergency as firefighter struggle to control the wildfires.

More than 150 people have been injured in the blazes, which are burning in three main fronts in the Attica region, including one that is currently out of control near the seaside resort village of Mati. So far 715 people have been evacuated, mainly from the area of Mati, according to government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos.

"Attica is facing a very difficult night. The combination of intense winds and multiple parallel fronts has created an unprecedented extent and difficulty for firefighters," Tzanakopoulos said in a briefing late Monday.

This blaze is being called Greece's worst fire crisis in more than a decade. Mati resident Nana Laganou told CNN that she had escaped by running into the sea, that the fire was "lightning fast" and that it was the first time she'd encountered something like this.

Greece is a popular tourist location and the summer season also brings large populations of locals during the summer holidays to its beaches.

Much of Europe has been hit by a massive high-pressure system that is allowing tropical heat to climb all the way to the Arctic.

Temperatures above 32˚C extended to the northern reaches of Scandinavia, setting records in Sweden, Finland and Norway for stations above the Arctic Circle.

The result has been a string of unprecedented wildfires in Sweden that have prompted the country to request assistance from other nations such as Italy, with more resources to fight wildfires. Nearly 100 people were forced to leave their homes overnight in Sweden, emergency officials said Thursday, as dozens of forest fires rage across the country as far north as the Arctic Circle.

Thomas Aronsson, chief of operations for SITS, a specialist firefighting service based in Sweden, said Wednesday that fire services were fighting around 80 blazes and lacked the necessary equipment.

"We need tankers, we need helicopters -- we don't have enough supplies," he told CNN. "There are 80 fires right now in Sweden, and there is no helicopter company or pilot in all of Sweden that's not involved in fighting these fires."

Two firefighting planes have been sent from Italy to help tackle the blazes. Footage posted Wednesday on Twitter by the Italian fire service from one of the two Canadair CL-415 aircraft showed smoke rising from a large area of forest. The plane was on its first mission, flying over Lillhardal, about 450 kilometers (280 miles) north of Stockholm, it said.

Norway, which is battling forest fires of its own, has also dispatched helicopters to help out its neighbor, the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency said.