(AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis
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UK chaplains deployed to Greece following deadly wildfires

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) has deployed 20 chaplains to Greece following the deadliest wildfires the country has seen in decades.

A fire broke out north-east of Athens in the area of Rafina on Monday, a seaside resort of permanent residences and holiday homes popular with Athenians and tourists.

Hundreds fled to nearby beaches, with many swimming out to sea to escape the ferocious flames and choking smoke that killed 81 people.

 

Rescue crews and volunteers have continued to search on land and at sea for potential further victims.

AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis
The burned kitchen of a house is seen in Mati, east of Athens

 

Chaplains from BGEA will work with local churches to offer emotional and spiritual support to victims.

Nigel Fawcett-Jones, the UK rapid response team coordinator, told Premier's News Hour: "In our experience we know that people ask really difficult and challenging questions at times like this.

"And I think it's appropriate that the Church and the rapid response team, as part of that church response, can bring the message of hope and comfort of the gospel."

AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis
Workers cut the burned trees in Rafina, east of Athens

 

Fawcett-Jones said the chaplains, who have responded to terrorist attacks in Brussels, Munich, Paris, London and Manchester, will be placed in intensely emotional situations.

"We can only begin to imagine the devastation in Greece," he said.

"The physical effects of the fire are terrible enough to try and contemplate, but the emotional and spiritual challenges of the disaster are just beyond measure."

Greek authorities are reporting that at least 1500 homes have been destroyed or damaged by the fire.

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