I rise today to express my deepest condolences to the victims of the devastating and tragic wildfires that engulfed parts of Athens, Greece, these past few days. These wildfires are now thought to be some of the worst fires Greece has experienced in over a decade, with thousands of homes destroyed and livestock and livelihoods affected, but perhaps the hardest figure to deal with is that of lives already lost. As it stands currently I understand that 74 people have been killed, including children, with hundreds more injured and many still missing. It is absolutely heartbreaking to hear stories of emergency crews finding one group of 26 victims huddled and braced together as they tried to escape.
I know that I am but one of the many Victorians of Hellenic heritage who are anxious about their loved ones at the moment. Of course here in Victoria we are no strangers to the danger of bushfires and the devastation they can bring. I am grateful to our Premier for extending an offer of assistance to Greek authorities. We stand ready to help if required.
I want to pay tribute to all the emergency services, firefighters, police men and women and volunteers who have battled these fires for days and offered what they can by way of support. The Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, has declared three days of national mourning, but I know this pain and suffering will be felt for a long time to come. Whilst there are many villages and communities that are all but entirely physically destroyed, I have no doubt that the Greek people will show strength, courage and unity in the coming days, months and years.
Of course these fires come at a time where we have seen record high temperatures across Europe, and I know wildfires are also causing widespread damage across Sweden, Finland and Latvia. I express my deepest condolences to the family and friends of all those who have lost their lives. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Athens and Greece at this moment.