Smoke seen rising over the Acropolis hill in Athens. (AP/Theodora Tongas) (AP/Theodora Tongas)
Fire Greece

“Israel has emergency teams waiting on stand-by to aid Greece,” which has expressed gratitude to the Jewish state for offering aid, Israel’s foreign ministry announced.

By: United with Israel Staff and AP

Israel has contacted Greece and offered to help it combat the massive blazes that are raging in the Athens area, which have killed over 60 people.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry stated Tuesday that in light of the severe fires in Greece, the National Security Council in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Israeli Embassy in Athens contacted their counterparts in Greece and offered Israel’s aid.

Greek authorities responded that at this stage they have gained control of the fires.

“Israel has emergency teams waiting on stand-by. Israel stands ready to aid Greece in any way necessary. The Greek authorities have expressed their thanks to Israel for its offer of aid,” the foreign ministry stated.

“Dear friends in Greece- our heartfelt condolences for the deadly consequences of the devastating forest fires. We are with you and ready to assist in any possible way,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Emmanuel Nachshon tweeted.

Cyprus, Greece and Israel signed a pact in January 2016 which includes offering mutual assistance in combating fires in the three countries.

In April of that year, Israel, Greece and Cyprus conducted their first joint firefighting exercise.

The joint exercise was the first practical result of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s initiative to build a wide-ranging system of emergency cooperation between the countries.

The countries have since helped each other extinguish fires. Israel has a fleet of fire-fighting planes, and at times has sent firefighting teams as well.

Worst Fires in a Decade

Twin wildfires raging through popular seaside areas near the Greek capital have torched homes, cars and forests and killed at least 50 people, authorities said Tuesday.

The fires — one about 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Athens in Kineta, the other to the northeast of the capital near Rafina — broke out Monday from as-yet-undetermined causes.

Fanned by gale-force winds, they spread rapidly into inhabited areas in popular holiday seaside areas, preventing many who were in their cars or homes from managing to flee, fire department spokeswoman Stavroula Malliri said.

The fire department said 156 adults and 16 children were hospitalized with injuries. Eleven of the adults were in serious condition. Many people headed to beaches on the coastline to escape, fleeing flames and choking smoke. More than 700 people were evacuated by sea throughout the night, said Merchant Marine deputy minister Nektarios Santorinios, whose ministry is in charge of the coast guard.

Winds reached 80 kph (50 mph) as authorities deployed the country’s entire fleet of water-dropping planes and helicopters to give vacationers time to escape. Military drones remained in the air in the high winds to help officials direct more than 600 firefighters on the ground.

The head of Greece’s Red Cross, Nikos Oikonomopoulos, told Skai television a member of a Red Cross rescue team had told him the crew searching a seaside area northeast of Athens had found 26 bodies, apparently family members, huddled tightly together, many of them hugging.

This is the deadliest fire season to hit Greece in more than a decade. More than 60 people were killed in 2007 when huge fires swept across the southern Peloponnese region.

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