Eighteen suspected migrants were found dead on Tuesday in a forest as wildfires continue to rage in northeastern Greece.
The bodies were found near the national park of Dadia, a region bordering Turkey that is a frequent entry point for migrants, fire department spokesman Yiannis Artopios confirmed in a televised address on Tuesday.
A series of ferocious wildfires continues to wreak havoc across the European nation and has triggered mass evacuations from both tourist and residential areas.
Firefighters are desperately trying to douse the flames with water but the blaze is raging though the Evros region in northeastern Greece and close to the capital of Athens.
The wildfires, which were first sparked by a dangerous mix of 41C heat and gale-force winds four days ago, have killed 19 people and destroyed dozens of homes across the country.
“Given that there have been no reports of disappearances or missing residents from the surrounding areas, the possibility that these are people who entered the country illegally is being investigated,” the local fire brigade told media.
“Searches throughout the entire area where the fire broke out are ongoing.”
A fire spokesperson said Greece’s current situation was “similar to July”, when disastrous fires ripped through the country sparking the evacuations of thousands of residents and tourists.
Nine active fronts were burning on Tuesday, with firefighters struggling to contain the blaze.
In Alexandroupolis, where flames came perilously close to a university hospital, 65 patients were evacuated onto a ferry in the city’s port. Another 14 people were evacuated by a coast guard vessel from a beach near the village of Makri.
Several communities in the broader Evros region, where the 18 suspected migrants’ bodies were found, have been evacuated as authorities warned the risk of new fires remained high in the coming days.
Harrowing images showed the extent of the damage caused by the wildfires, with the charred remains of homes and cars seen littering the Evros region.
“Under extreme weather conditions, mainly due to gale-force winds, a huge effort has been made to manage fire fronts that broke out simultaneously in many parts of the country,” fire brigade spokesperson Ioannis Artopios said late on Monday.
“The hours we are going through are extremely critical.”
It is just the latest in a series of deadly fires that have plagued Europe in recent months amid record-breaking summer heat.
Firefighters in Croatia, Greece and Italy have all battled forest blazes that have ravaged thousands of hectares of land and killed dozens of people.