DCU student Séan Davis and his girlfriend, Chole Sugrue, survived the fires in Greece which killed more than 80 people last week.
The couple arrived home safe yesterday after escaping the flames that engulfed Greece while they were on holiday.
Officials citing information from satellite maps have said that 13 fires broke out Monday at the same time across the Attica region.
“There was smoke everywhere and ash falling while people ran past us carrying children, animals and whatever they could carry from their homes,” told Davis to The College View.
“I then began to think it was serious and that we could be in danger then within 10 minutes, everywhere was blazing and we were running for our lives,” he continued.
While the couple managed to escape, unfortunately, an Irish fatality did occur. Brian O’Callaghan-Westhropp was in Greece on his honeymoon with his wife Zoe Holohan when he died as a result of the wildfire. The newly-weds married only last Thursday.
At least 88 people died in the inferno which is now believed to be the result of arson. Alexis Tsipras, the Prime Minister of Greece took “political responsibility” for the fire.
Tsipras expressed his anguish about “whether we acted correctly in everything we did.”
“To be honest I would say it was arson. They say that 13 fires started simultaneously which is crazy,” said Davis.
Séan, who studies Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science in DCU, recounted that the “sound of the helicopters flying over us to get water from the sea and dropping it just a few metres away from us,” was something that resonated with him from the disaster.
At that point Séan and Chloe were on the beach which was approximately a 10 ft. drop from the hotel. Although “the smoke was still thick,” the approximate 150 other people that Sean and Chloe joined on the beach believed they were safe. However, flames started to spill over on to the beach.
“The screams of the people sitting at the water on phones hearing that their family members’ had been burned to death or that their homes had burned to the round will always stick with me,” said Davis.
Davis also commented on the humanity that was present both while the fire spread and in the aftermath of events as while people “were going through their worst nightmare” they were still “handing out whatever water they had and using wet t-shirts to wipe the ash from people’s eyes.”
Greece came under scrutiny because of the way authorities handled the situation, despite a 40-million-euro relief fund.
There was no organised evacuation as “only municipal authorities can order it,” said a senior government official.
“Getting to safety was all off our own bat,” said Séan who got refuge with his girlfriend in a hotel in Athens after getting a taxi and a bus there.
Séan and Chloe’s families got in contact with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Irish Embassy in Greece who took their numbers and reassured both families that they would contact them but “the call simply never came,” said Davis.
“If we had died that day I’d know that we went and at least tried to experience things together and that’s the main thing. It’s all about quality, not quantity,” said Séan.
By Cáit Caden
Image Credits: Séan Davis.