Athens: Rescue workers in Greece continued to search charred homes and burned-out cars on Wednesday as the toll from some of the worst wildfires this century is expected to rise from at least 74 dead and 187 injured.
Many people fled to the sea to try to escape the flames as they tore through towns near Athens stoked by high winds, reducing pine forests to ash and devouring hundreds of buildings.
Greek media have described the disaster as a “national tragedy”, while Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras cut short a visit to Bosnia and announced three days of national mourning.
The government has not yet said how many people are still missing from the fires, which broke out on Monday, as firefighters continue to battle blazes in some areas.
Residents and terrified holidaymakers were overtaken by the flames in homes, on foot or in their cars. AFP photographers saw the burnt bodies of people and dogs.
The charred bodies of 26 people, including small children, were discovered at a villa at the seaside resort of Mati, 40 kilometres (25 miles) northeast of Athens, said rescuer Vassilis Andriopoulos.
They were huddled together in small groups, “perhaps families, friends or strangers, entwined in a last attempt to protect themselves as they tried to reach the sea”, he said.
As world leaders including Pope Francis affirmed their solidarity, Athens said 308 engineers would arrive on site by Wednesday to assess the damage.
But “the problem is what is still hidden under the ashes,” said emergency services vice president Miltiadis Mylonas.
The death toll could surpass that from the blazes that hit Greece’s southern island of Evia in 2007 in which 77 people perished.
One Belgian was among the victims, said Belgium’s foreign minister Didier Reynders, while in Warsaw Poland’s government said a Polish woman and her son also died.
Some 187 people have been hospitalised, with 82 still being treated on Tuesday evening, including almost a dozen children, most of whom were in a “serious condition”, the fire services said.
Dramatic video footage showed people fleeing by car as the tourist-friendly Attica region declared a state of emergency.
Athanasia Oktapodi, whose home is surrounded by pine trees, said she first spotted the fire moving down the hill “and five or ten minutes later it was in my garden”.
“I ran out like a crazy person, got to the beach and put my head in the water. Then the patrol boats came,” said the 60-year-old.
Fire service spokeswoman Stavroula Maliri said firefighters were still searching for more victims and taking “dozens of calls” from people looking for relatives.
Winds of above 100 kilometres per hour (60 mph) in Mati caused a “sudden progression of fire” through the village, said Maliri.
“Mati no longer exists,” said the mayor of nearby Rafina, Evangelos Bournous, adding that more than a thousand buildings and 300 cars had been damaged.
“I saw the flames outside the window of our hotel. I thought it would explode,” said Alina Marzin, a 20-year-old German tourist who had been staying at the Capo Verde hotel in Mati on Monday evening with her brother and their parents.
At least six people died trying to escape the flames into the sea. Some 715 people were evacuated by boats to Rafina, the government said.
“People are shocked, lost. Some of them have lost everything: children, parents, homes,” said Red Cross spokeswoman Georgia Trisbioti.
JNU sedition: Court questions chargesheet without sanction
New Delhi: A court here questioned Delhi Police on Saturday for filing a chargesheet against former Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) president Kanhaiya Kumar and others in the 2016 JNU sedition case without procuring the requisite sanctions.
The police told Metropolitan Magistrate Deepak Sherawat they would procure the required sanctions within 10 days.
“Why did you file (the chargesheet) without approval? You don’t have a legal department,” the court said.
The court is likely to resume hearing on the matter soon.
Delhi Police had on January 14 filed the chargesheet at a city court against Kumar and others, saying he was leading a procession and supported seditious slogans raised on the university campus during an event in February 2016.
Police also charged former JNU students Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya with allegedly shouting anti-India slogans during the event held on February 9, 2016, to commemorate the hanging of Parliament-attack mastermind Afzal Guru. PTI
Volcano waiting to erupt in Cong-JD(S) alliance : Yeddyurappa
Bengaluru: Karnataka BJP president BS Yeddyurappa has said some Congress MLAs skipping the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting and the deep differences between the ruling coalition partners are an indication that a volcano may erupt in the coming days.
His remarks came after four dissident Congress MLAs skipped the CLP meeting here that was called as a show of strength against an alleged bid by the BJP to dislodge the HD Kumaraswamy-led Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) government.
“The absence of Congress MLAs from the CLP meeting and deep differences between the coalition partners are an indication that this is likely to erupt as a volcano in the coming days,” Yeddyurappa said on Friday evening here.
Their absence also showed intense and widespread anger and resentment among Congress MLAs, he said.
The BJP chief said the tone of CLP leader Siddaramaiah’s warning to the party MLAs showed his frustration and fear.
“ Siddaramaiah, the tone, tenor and content of the meeting notice given by you to the MLAs shows your frustration and proves that you are gripped by fear. If your relationship with the MLAs was strong and cordial, why did you mention in the notice that action would be taken as per the anti-defection law?” Yeddyurappa asked.
The Congress would issue notices to absentee MLAs–Ramesh Jarkiholi, B Nagendra, Umesh Jadhav and Mahesh Kumatahalli, Siddaramaiah had told reporters after Friday’s meeting.
Yeddyurappa also attacked Congress general secretary KC Venugopal over his remarks that ‘Operation Lotus’ commenced in Karnataka in 2008.
The BJP chief said it was the Congress which started the “aaya ram, gaya ram” culture, referring to the practice of MLAs defecting to other parties, he said.
“In 1967, the then prime minister Indira Gandhi had said that ‘gaya ram has now become aaya ram’ when an MLA of her United Front government had joined and quit the Congress three times in a gap of 15 days,” he said.
The former chief minister said it would be better if Siddaramaiah and Venugopal studied political history to know what happened in Haryana where the Congress had formed the government with Bhajan Lal with the help of 36 Janata Party MLAs.
The Congress is continuing this culture, Yeddyurappa said.
It looked like that Siddaramaiah had forgotten that he too joined the Congress with the same culture, he added.
Yeddyurappa said the BJP was not lusting for power.
With 104 seats, the BJP is functioning as a vigilant and constructive opposition party and the Congress and the JD(S) with 80 and 37 seats, respectively, had formed an unholy alliance to form the government, he said.
Kumaraswamy and Siddaramaiah should realise that this is first time in the history of legislature that a party with more than 100 seats is sitting in the opposition.
Yeddyurappa said the BJP’s MLAs assembled at a Gurugram hotel to discuss the strategy to win the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
“If 104 MLAs of our party meet at one place and discuss the strategy to win the Lok Sabha, what is your problem? It is your responsibility to keep your party MLAs under control. If you scream the way you have been doing, it only shows your helplessness,” he said.
Taking a dig at Venugopal’s remarks that “glorious days” of the grand old party must return, Yeddyurappa asked if he was referring to the return of “multi-crore scams of the Congress-led UPA regime”.
He accused the Congress and the JD(S) of fooling people and said while the two parties were friends in Karnataka, they were enemies in Kolkata.
“As usual the JD(S) has been playing a double-game. The JD(S) needs the Congress on the one hand, and on the other, the JD(S) wants ‘mahagathbandhan’, which the Congress does not want,” Yeddyurappa claimed.
The double standards of these parties showed that there is no alternative to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said.
India does not belong to any particular religion, caste or language:Gadkari
Nagpur: Union minister Nitin Gadkari said this country does not belong to any particular religion, caste, or language.
Addressing a gathering during the distribution of ownership pattas to slum dwellers he said the party had never done politics based on caste or religion and theirs was a politics of service and development.
He said India was of every person who loved it, be it a Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jain, Christians or others.
“We have never done politics based on caste or religion… We never did politics on caste, religion and language. But, we did politics of service and development of poor,” he said.
“Because a poor man is poor, be it a Muslim, Jain, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Dalit or a tribal,” he said.
He further said that there cannot be partiality in the work of development.
“We know that those who cannot compete with us on the development front, try to scare people with poison of casteism and communalism,” he said.
He said it was said that if Gadkari gets elected then “you will be sent to Pakistan” and questioned, “What did I do, whom did I scare and whom was I unjust to”.
He said the party will work for people whether or not they vote for it.
“This country does not belong to any particular religion, caste, or language. This country is of every person who loves it, be it a Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jain, Christian and others,” said Gadkari.