“The only road,” he said, “was the sea.”
Mr. Tsiongios pointed at a narrow pass, beyond a slumped cactus plant, where he said more than 100 people had struggled to get to the rocky beach below. He made it out, he said, and waded in the water until the fires were extinguished. But a friend’s elderly mother did not make it, he said, and is missing.
Some people swam out hoping that boats would come to their rescue. Some were plucked from the sea by fishermen, while others clung to makeshift rafts before the coast guard arrived.
Twelve coast guard vessels, aided by private boats, rescued dozens of people from the sea and helped evacuate about 800 people trapped on the beaches of Mati and nearby Kokkino Limanaki, officials said.
But the sea, too, took its toll. Some residents swam to safety, only to see their neighbors drown. Others treaded water for hours, their eyes burning from smoke, until fisherman pulled them aboard.
Vaios Kiriakis, a 50-year-old high school fitness instructor, said he first smelled smoke on Monday afternoon at his home in nearby Rafina, and then saw the flames from his terrace. Within hours, Mr. Kiriakis said, he, his wife and 12-year-old son fled with some money and waterproof jackets to a beach near the port.
“You could see the fire coming toward you at great speed, and there’s nothing you can do but leave,” he said.
Orignially published in NYT.