WORLD Death toll from Greek wildfire rises to 87, as arson indicated

WORLD

Death toll from Greek wildfire rises to 87, as arson indicated

Xinhua

23:47, July 27, 2018

ATHENS, July 27 (Xinhua) -- The death toll from the wildfire which swept through a once idyllic seaside resort in eastern Attica on Monday has risen to 87 by Friday, according to the latest update from local authorities.

Meanwhile, the government said the deadliest tragedy in over a decade in Greece was most probably the result of a well prepared plan by arsonists.

Autopsies have been carried out on 86 bodies recovered from the Mati, Neos Voutzas and Kokkino Limanaki settlements, the head of the Athens coroner's service Nikos Karakoukis announced on Friday.

The process of identifying the dead will continue at the police forensics labs, he said.

Moreover, a 62-year-old burn victim died in hospital, the health ministry announced.

According to the medics, 11 of the 187 injured in the wildfire are still in intensive care because of their critical conditions.

Greek officials have not yet released the number of the missing, as search among the charred remains of homes and cars and the sea area, where thousands of people fled to escape the blaze, continued.

Amid the pain and the agony, an investigation into the causes of the disaster was underway.

"There is serious evidence pointing to criminal action," Public Order Minister Nikos Toskas, told a press briefing here, citing satellite image analysis data and "suspicious findings" on the ground inside the pine forest where the fire broke out on mountain Penteli on Monday afternoon.

The Greek officials did not elaborate, but according to a report published on local "Ethnos" (Nation) newspaper citing Fire Brigade sources, remains of nine incendiary devices where discovered in the area.

Greece suffers each summer from wildfires which are mainly attributed to the heat waves or arsonists.

In the case of Mati, investigators will look thoroughly into all the factors that were believed to have contributed to this major catastrophe.

Deputy Regional Governor of Eastern Attica Petros Philippou said on Friday while speaking to a local radio "Thema" (Story) that authorities never gave a clear notification to people to evacuate the settlement. The alarm never sounded.

During the press briefing, Fire Brigade and Police chiefs argued that due to the unprecedentedly strong winds which were blowing in the area, the flames spread 2-3 kilometers within just a few minutes, and there was no adequate time to react.

Another major factor which was considered to have contributed to the disaster was the town plan which included narrow streets, dead ends and fences which blocked the escape to the sea.

The town plan in Mati and in similar areas needs to be fully redesigned in order to avoid a calamity similar to the disastrous fires occurring in the future, Interior Minister Panos Skourletis said on Friday after a meeting at the nearby Rafina-Pikermi City Hall.

"An overall redesigning of the town is needed. If things stay as they are, it is as is we are signing an open contract that the same things will happen all over again at some point," the minister said, according to Greek national news agency AMNA.

"There have to be public spaces, roads and the access to the beaches must open," he stressed.

Cover image: Xinhua

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