Fire-Stricken Mati Sends Defiant Message of Hope

    Christmas message displayed in the devastated town of Mati, near Athens. Source: Facebook

    Residents of the fire-stricken Greek town of Mati, located 40 km (25 miles) east of Athens, have raised a huge banner on a burned-out building, wishing everyone a “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year”.

    “Merry Christmas. Happy 2019 with health, happiness, joy, love, hope, peace! Mati is alive,” the banner reads.

    Ninety-nine people were confirmed dead from the devastating wildfires that hit eastern Attica on July 23, 2018.

    The fires were the second-deadliest wildfires anywhere in the world in the 21st century, after the 2009 “Black Saturday” bushfires in Australia which killed 180 people.

    The Attica fires were so intense that they trapped and burned people alive inside their houses, and even in their cars, as they were stopped in traffic jams. Many were forced to flee to the sea.

    Even so, some victims, including a single group of twenty-six people, were found burned to death just meters away from the water. Believed to be vacationing members of a single extended family, they were attempting to flee to the water but found themselves trapped between the fire and cliffs.

    Ten tourists drowned after their boat capsized off Mate in an attempt to flee the flames.

    Thousands of vehicles and houses were destroyed before the fire, which was fueled by temperatures of 40 degrees C (104 degrees F) and winds in excess of 105 km per hour (65 mph), was brought under control.