Fire officials in Greece say 74 people have died from surprisingly fast-moving fires that struck near Athens on Monday, with the death toll tripling in what has quickly become a national tragedy. The fires have sent people scrambling to escape and have put intense pressure on fire and rescue agencies.

At least six major fires continue to burn in Greece, the national fire service says. The blazes have drawn power from strong winds to devastate homes and forests in towns near the Greek capital. Other areas hit by fire include the island of Crete.

In addition to those killed, the fire service says, 164 adults and 23 children were injured.

Earlier on Tuesday, Red Cross officials said workers had found the remains of 26 people who had gathered together after trying to reach safety.

Rescue workers warn the death toll will likely rise further, as they go through the scorched remains of hundreds of homes and cars destroyed by the fire.

Greeks trapped by fires in seaside resorts east and west of the capital have tried to flee by car, motorcycle — even by boat.

People on the beach waved down fishermen. Others just swam out. The Greek Coast Guard, which evacuated hundreds of survivors from beaches, said it had recovered at least four bodies at sea.

Early Tuesday, Greek Red Cross workers made a gruesome discovery — 26 charred bodies — near the badly-burned village of Mati, in the Rafina area east of Athens. It's a popular vacation spot for older Greeks and kids attending summer camps.

"What a terrible day," Nikos Economopoulos, the Greek Red Cross director, told state TV.

Rescue workers said the victims included children. The charred bodies were found huddled together. Some appeared to be hugging. Red Cross staff said it appeared the victims had been trapped by the fire just a few yards before reaching the sea.

Greece has declared a state of emergency. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called for three days of national mourning. Several European Union countries, as well as Israel, have offered to send help.

"Europe will stand by our Greek friends in these difficult times," tweeted European Council President Donald Tusk, writing in both Greek and English. "Help is on its way."

Greek firefighters battled the flames throughout the night. The worst fire broke out east of Athens near the town of Rafina. Other fires raged west of Athens in Kineta, and to the north around the town of Pendeli and Kalamos.

The prime minister, Tsipras, cut short his visit to neighboring Bosnia on Monday and quickly returned to Athens. He told reporters that his government will do "whatever is humanly possible to control" the fires.

He also pleaded with Greeks in affected areas to leave immediately. TV footage showed several residents trying to fight the fires with garden hoses or buckets filled with water.

"What's most important now is your life," he said. "Properties and material wealth can be replaced. Human lives cannot."

Citizens' Protection Minister Nikos Toskas suggested arsonists caused the fires. The Greek Supreme Court has ordered an investigation.

Wildfires are not unusual during Greece's hot, dry summers. Dozens of people died during an especially fiery summer in 2007.

But Monday's blazes near Athens spread so quickly, they seemed to catch everyone off guard.

Giorgos Mathiopoulos, the head of Greece's emergency workers association, told reporters that one fire broke out around noon and the second around 5 p.m.

By early evening, a huge plume of smoke was visible on Acropolis hill. The sky glowed orange.

Powerful, hot winds spread the flames, forcing hundreds from their homes. Achilleas Tzouvaras, a senior fire chief, told residents lingering near their fire-threatened homes to "just leave."

"People cannot tolerate so much smoke for so many hours," he said on state TV. "This is an extreme situation."

Greek TV stations broke into live coverage, showing panoramas of burning homes and pine trees and close-ups of distraught homeowners in masks.

Motorists on the Athens-Corinth highway to the Peloponnese in southern Greece had to pull over because they couldn't see due to the thick smoke. Authorities closed the highway.

The seaside resort village of Mati in eastern was nearly consumed by the flames. One resident told reporters she escaped the fire by jumping into the sea. Another compared it to Pompeii.

In Penteli and Rafina, northeast of Athens, children were evacuated from summer camps. SKAI TV news reported that residents and vacationers fled to nearby beaches in Rafina, where they were rescued by the coast guard. Ten panicked tourists, reportedly from Denmark, also fled a beach by boat. Five have been located and rescued.

At least three villages have been evacuated. Evangelos Bournous, the mayor of the seaside town of Rafina, told reporters that he had personally seen many homes go up in flames.

Firefighters also battled other fires around the country: on Crete, in the northern town of Soufli and near Corinth. On Sunday, there was also a fire on Skopelos, the island where the 2008 hit film Mamma Mia was shot.

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