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Rescuers in Greece find 18 burned bodies as wildfires spread

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A satellite image broadcast on state television showed that smoke from the Evros fires had drifted across the country to the Ionian islands in the northwest, not far from Italy.

Fires near Athens in the southeast burned homes and cars and forced residents to flee on foot. Some covered their faces with their clothes as smoke thickened the air.

Volunteers loaded sheep in the trunks of cars to save them from the flames, while another man tried to rescue a horse.

“The winds are very strong … It is a very difficult firefighting task. God help us,” said Sotiris Masouris, a 50-year-old resident of Hasia, west of Athens.

In the industrial town of Aspropyrgos near Athens, factories were destroyed as a blaze burned unabated.

Southern Europe has been hit by a new heatwave with temperatures reaching or exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in some parts. Fires were also burning in Spain, Italy and Portugal.

Summer wildfires in Greece are common but have been exacerbated in recent years by unusually hot, dry and windy conditions that scientists have linked to climate change.

More than 20,000 foreign tourists were evacuated from resorts on the Aegean holiday island of Rhodes in July as wildfires burned for a week, destroying homes and hotels.

HOSPITAL EVACUATED

Dozens of hospital patients, including newborn babies, were evacuated on Tuesday onto a ferry as hundreds of firefighters struggled to contain the blaze that broke out on Saturday near Alexandroupolis.

It spread quickly, fanned by high winds, sending plumes of smoke above the port city and turning the night sky red.

By early Tuesday, authorities said 65 patients at the University Hospital of Alexandroupolis had been evacuated as a precaution onto a ferry in the port.

The ferry was turned into a makeshift hospital. Elderly patients lay on mattresses on the cafeteria floor, paramedics attended to others on stretchers and a woman held a man resting on a sofa, an IV drip attached to his hand.

“I’ve been working for 27 years, I’ve never seen anything like this,” said nurse Nikos Gioktsidis. “Stretchers everywhere, patients here, IV drips there … it was like a war, like a bomb had exploded.”

The ferry later sailed to the nearby port of Kavala, state broadcaster ERT said.

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