The death toll from a fire which ripped through a Greek coastal town stood at 80 on Wednesday as frantic relatives tried to track down people missing from the inferno and coroners began the grim task of identifying bodies.

Hundreds of people were trapped in the eastern resort of Mati on Monday night as flames whipped around them. Many jumped into the sea to survive but others died from suffocation, either in their cars or trapped on the edge of steep cliffs.

The Greek anti-terrorist service was investigating suggestions that the blaze – one of several throughout the Attica region – was started deliberately, a security source said. Arson is often thought to be behind some fires in a crude attempt to clear forest land for building.

The fire brigade said the death of a survivor in hospital had brought the toll up to 80. The service had also received dozens of calls reporting missing persons, but it was unclear if some of them were among those found dead, a spokesperson said. 

Some appeared on television to plead for help, and others posted pictures online of their missing loved ones. 

"I’m looking for my mum," a young woman told Greece’s SKAI TV between sobs.

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Her mother was Athina Karakoulaki, 48, whom she last spoke to on Monday afternoon as the flames closed in.

A father also appealed on Greek TV for help to find his missing 9-year-old twin daughters after he thought he recognised them in TV news footage below. 

Sophia and Vasiliki's father recognised them in TV news footage of their escape from the fires on a boat, and is now appealing for help to find his daughters

Yiannis Philipopoulos and his wife had spent the day fruitlessly searching local hospitals and through law enforcement agencies on Tuesday, and said seeing the footage of the boat on the TV news had given them hope that their daughters, who went missing with their grandparents, were still alive. 

But later reports in Greece said that a man who was on board the boat had come forward to say the girls were his, meaning that Mr Philipopoulous’ twins Sofia and Vasiliki (pictured below, left to right) remain among the ranks of the missing. 

Greece wildfires: missing twins photo

The fire in Mati broke out close to 5pm, (2pm UK time), an hour which is observed as a siesta time in rural Greek communities. Mati was popular with local tourists, including pensioners, and they were caught up in the tragedy alongside international tourists – including a handful of Brits and an Irish honeymooning couple – as well as local residents. 

Rescue teams combed through the area and the sea on Wednesday trying to locate anything which could offer clarity on the missing, who are thought to number about 40.

"We took our cars and went down to the sea and got into the sea to escape, but there were people who did not make it," said Mati resident Agni Gantona.

It carried a photo of a burned Greek flag hanging among the branches of a charred tree.

Bride in hospital and groom missing as Irish newlyweds caught up in wildfires

A newly-married Irish couple were also caught up in the wildfires. Zoe Holohan and Brian O’Callaghan-Westropp became separated as they tried to escape the fires in the coastal town of Mati.

The pair got married at Clonabreany House in Kells, Co Meath, last Thursday before flying out to Greece for their honeymoon on Saturday.

Ms Holohan, who works in advertising for the Sunday World, is in hospital after suffering burns to her head and hands, but her husband has not yet been found.

Zoe Holohan on her wedding day. She is now recovering from the Greek fires in hospitalCredit:
PA

The couple, who live in Dublin, were travelling in a vehicle when they were forced to flee. Ms Holohan was able to escape to a nearby beach and was admitted to hospital on Tuesday night.

The British Embassy said a number of Brits had also been evacuated, with one in hospital with minor injuries. 

‘Mati no longer exists’: Resort devastated by blaze

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 60mph 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.

“I was so glad I could rescue them and they thanked me.”

The boat could only fit 20 people at a time, forcing the fishermen to make multiple trips to and from the safety of nearby Rafina. At one point the flames were so close they were licking around the boat, he said. He finally stopped rescuing people at 3am on Tuesday morning. 

But Mr Tafir says he is no hero. 

“I’m just human. It was my duty to help as a human,” he said. 

Wildfires

The European Union activated its Civil Protection Mechanism after Greece sought help. Several countries said they were sending aircraft to help fight the flames.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted the EU "will spare no effort to help Greece and the Greek people", while Pope Francis spoke of his "deep sadness," sentiments echoed by EU and NATO leaders.

NATO head Jens Stoltenberg offered the alliance’s full solidarity with Greece, whose government earmarked financial aid for victims’ relatives.

"People are shocked, lost. Some of them have lost everything: children, parents, homes," said Red Cross spokeswoman Georgia Trisbioti.

Wildfire in Mati, Greece

Were fires started by arsonists? Investigation begins

Interior Minister Panos Skourletis said the priority was to extinguish a fire still burning in Kineta, 30 miles from Athens.

Near the town of Marathon, residents fled to safety along the beach, while 600 children were evacuated from holiday camps.

Officials raised the possibility the blazes could have been started deliberately by criminals out to ransack abandoned homes.

"I am really concerned by the parallel outbreak of these fires," Tsipras said as supreme court prosecutors announced they had opened an investigation into the causes of the fire.

Showers were set to see temperatures around Athens drop slightly after hitting 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).

Fires rage across Europe amid record temperatures

The wildfires come as record temperatures in northern Europe have seen blazes cause widespread damage in recent days.

Sweden, experiencing an unprecedented drought and the highest temperatures in a century, has counted more than 20 fires across the country.

Fires have also hit Finland’s northernmost Lapland province.

A global heatwave map shows how the UK was another warm blob in a mostly warmer-than-normal world in June 2018

Norway, which experienced its hottest May temperatures on record, has seen several small fires. One firefighter was killed on July 15 trying to contain a blaze.

Fires have raged for five days in Latvia, destroying more than 1,000 hectares in the Baltic state.

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