Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Friday he accepted "full political responsibility" for devastating fires that have killed at least 87 people, as opposition parties and survivors criticized authorities for doing too little to help.
"I have called you here today first of all to take full political responsibility for this tragedy in front of my cabinet and the Greek people," Tsipras told a cabinet meeting broadcast live on Friday.
"I won't hide that I am overwhelmed by mixed feelings right now ... Pain, devastation for the human lives unexpectedly and unfairly lost. But also anguish at whether we acted correctly in everything we did."
Tsipras' comments come after the main opposition New Democracy party criticized the government for failing to protect lives and to apologize for its inaction.
Fofi Gennimata of the opposition Socialist party called for the government to resign over the disaster.
Survivors also complained that they had been left to fend for themselves, with no assistance from the authorities.
One of the worst Greek disasters in living memory, the fires broke out on Monday near Mati, some 30 kilometers east of Athens, trapping dozens of people in their cars trying to escape a wall of flames.
About 300 fire fighters and volunteers were still combing the area on Friday for those missing. More than 500 homes were destroyed by the blaze.
Civil Protection Minister Nikos Toskas has said the government suspects arson.
Officials citing information from satellite maps noted that 13 fires broke out at the same time across the region of Attica – which includes Athens – on Monday.
A mix of poor urban planning, including a lack of proper access routes and the construction of too many buildings next to combustible forest areas, also contributed to the inferno, experts say.The government has announced a long list of relief measures including a one-off 10,000 euro ($11,600) payment for families of the victims.
Tsipras has also promised a national plan to tackle decades of unauthorized construction and to reform and upgrade the Civil Protection Service "to guarantee ... that there will be no more tragedies."
But questions have been raised over the number of firefighters available and evacuation procedures.
The area hit by the fires is popular with local tourists.
Survivors spoke of harrowing scenes including entire families burned alive in their homes.
Forensics experts now have the difficult task of identifying the bodies of those who perished in the catastrophe.
An official in the identification effort told Greek radio that most of the bodies were completely carbonized, meaning the task will likely take several more days to complete.
Survivors have been looked after by voluntary organizations, who provide them with accommodation, clothing and food.