Authorities have been criticised for their response, leaving would-be heroes to pick up the pieces.
Greece has been in the grips of its deadliest wildfire in over a decade since last week; one that has ravaged a coastal area east of Greece while claiming up to 90 lives. Authorities have been criticised for its slow and indecisive response, leaving many to flea beachside.
While firefighters continue to battle the blaze, an unlikely hero has emerged: 42 year-old Egyptian fisherman, Tawfik Halil, 42, who resides in one of the areas effected, the village of Mati.
During the time of the fire which started last Monday, many people ran to the sea, seeking refuge, according to the Washington Post. Halil and a group of nine other fishermen took to the sea with their boats, “plucking” people out of the waters. Halil along with the group of fishermen were able to rescue a total of 70 children, men and women from the fires.
“You can’t see anything in the smoke and fire — so much fire and so much smoke. There was so much wind,” Halil told the Associated Press on Wednesday, adding that the screams in the smoke-engulfed air was what helped guide him to the victims.
“We could not breathe. I almost fainted at some point from all the smoke, and it was very difficult, my friend, it was so difficult. I have never seen such a difficult thing before.”
Halil was one of the numerous people on the mission to voluntarily rescue the hundreds of people in the sea in Mati, a popular destination for local tourists. The tides were harsh due to the strong gale force winds.
“It was chaos, do you understand? Do you know what it’s like to be in all that smoke, not being able to see anything and to have people asking for help?” Halil said.
According to Halil, those in the sea ranged from the ages of eight to 70; he did his best to rescue as many people as he possibly could in the ferocious conditions. Not all the fishermen from Halil’s rescue team were survivors. Halil said that one of the body’s he pulled out of the waters was his friend.
This incident is the second disaster that Egypt's unsung hero Halil has dealt with; in 2015, he was present during the rescue of Syrian migrants overturned in a boat near Chios, Greece.
Main image of Tawfik Halil from The Associated Press