Greek authorities have discovered the charred remains of 18 people in a forested area near the city of Alexandroupolis, where a major wildfire has been burning out of control for four days.
The fire department said that the bodies were found on Tuesday in the Dadia national park, one of the most important protected areas in Europe for rare birds and wildlife. The park is also close to the border with Turkey, where many migrants attempt to cross into Greece.
The authorities said that they were examining the possibility that the victims were migrants who entered the country illegally and got trapped by the flames. They added that there were no reports of missing people in the area.
The discovery came as dozens of patients were evacuated from a hospital in Alexandroupolis on Monday night, as the fire approached the northeastern Greek city. The patients, including newborn babies and intensive care patients, were transferred to a ferry docked at the port with the help of police and ambulances.
The fire brigade also issued two alert messages for residents, urging them to stay indoors and close all doors and windows due to heavy smoke. Some residents in eight nearby villages were told to leave their homes and head for safety in Alexandroupolis .
The wildfire in Alexandroupolis is one of several blazes that have been raging across Greece amid a heatwave and strong winds. Other fires have been reported on the island of Evia, Kythnos and Boeotia in central Greece, where several villages have been evacuated.
The European Union has deployed two firefighting aircraft from Cyprus and a firefighting team from Romania to assist the Greek firefighters. The Greek government has also requested help from other countries through the bloc’s civil protection mechanism.
The wildfires have been described as “unprecedented” by Greek officials, who have linked them to climate change. According to the EU’s Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, Greece has had its worst July since 2008 in terms of wildfires, with more than 100,000 hectares burned.