Majority were tourists who had tried to find refuge but did not make it. “Instinctively, seeing the end nearing, they embraced”, Economopoulos said.
The inferno is thought to be Greece’s deadliest, with the death toll higher than fires that ravaged the southern Peloponnese peninsula over several days in August 2007.
One fire was burning Monday northeast of Athens in the Penteli area, moving into the town of Rafina.
“We just want to find her”, said Ms Saridou’s 25-year-old son Asot Kostoyan.
They were huddled together in small groups, “perhaps families, friends or strangers, entwined in a last attempt to protect themselves as they tried to reach the sea”, said rescuer Vassilis Andriopoulos.
Mati is a popular tourist spot for Greeks, particularly pensioners and children at summer camps.
“The only road”, he said, “was the sea”.
Hundreds of others abandoned cars and fled to nearby beaches, from where they were evacuated hours later by coast guard and private boats.
The girl’s father Yiannis on Tuesday pleaded for help to locate his daughters Sofia and Vasiliki Philippopoulos after they were spotted on a rescue boat during a live cross on Greek television. The fire department has urged residents to report missing relatives and friends. White smoke rose from smoldering fires.
Officials in Greece say 74 people have died so far, with a further 164 adults and 23 children still being treated in hospitals for injuries after the fires broke out near Athens.
The Ministry of infrastructure and transport reported that in the affected regions, more than 200 houses were completely destroyed by fire, 234 houses badly damaged and in need of fix.
Spain sent additional air support and Cyprus sent dozens of firefighters, while Israel and Turkey also offered to help.
“Our thoughts go to Greece and the victims of the awful fires”.
But “the problem is what is still hidden under the ashes”, said emergency services vice president Miltiadis Mylonas. Sweden has also suffered forest fires.
The Greek fire brigade said the death of a survivor in hospital had brought the toll up to 80.
Defence Minister Panos Kammenos visited Mati on Thursday morning and was heckled by distraught men and women, who accused authorities of not doing enough in the initial hours of the fire.
Wildfires are not uncommon in Greece, but a relatively dry winter has created tinderbox conditions.
It was unclear what caused the fire, which spread rapidly through Mati, a maze of narrow streets and dense forest.
At daybreak Tuesday, Ambulance Service deputy director Miltiadis Mylonas said the number of casualties was likely to rise as the more gutted homes and cars were checked.
“It will be very painful, we will then have the identification … the funerals, more pain”, said Evangelos Bournous, the mayor of Rafina-Pikermi, an area close to Mati.