A coastguard patrols near the coastline of the burnt area of Mati, east of Athens, Friday, July 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Forensics experts work on identifying the dead in Greek fire

Greek authorities said Thursday there were serious indications that a deadly wildfire that gutted a vacation resort near Athens was started deliberately.

All autopsies on the dozens of people who died in Greece’s deadliest wildfire in decades have been completed although the work of identifying them continues, the head of the Athens Forensics Department said Friday.

Nikos Karakoukis said coroners had completed autopsies on 86 bodies — despite the official death toll standing at 83.

The discrepancy was due to forensic tests revealing the remains of three extra people, Karakoukis said. The revelation was an indication of the intensity of the fire’s heat, which melted the metal hub caps of cars.

“There are parts of bones that are attributed to three people, so the number increases to 86,” Karakoukis said.

Many of the dead were burned beyond recognition and the identification procedure, relying on DNA samples from relatives, is expected to take several days to be completed.

Germany’s federal criminal police has sent a team of its forensics specialists to help in the process. The team members have worked on major disasters, including the 2004 Asian tsunami and a 2002 midair collision of a Russian charter flight and a DHL cargo plane over southern Germany that killed 71 people.

Related: Rescue crews search for missing in Greek wildfires; 79 dead

Related: Arson wildfire forces entire California town to evacuate

Rescue crews continued a house-by-house search of the burnt area northeast of Athens near the port of Rafina while coast guard and volunteer divers scoured the sea for any other potential victims. It was still unclear how many people might be missing.

As the fire raged, whipped by ferocious winds, hundreds of people sought refuge on nearby beaches. But the intensity of the heat and the dense smoke forced many to swim out to sea. Rescue came hours later, and at least six of the victims were people who drowned.

Authorities have said there were serious indications the fire had been started deliberately. However, the local mayor of Penteli, where the fire started, has said he believes the blaze was triggered accidentally from electrical cables.

“That is my opinion, because I saw the cables on the pylon burning,” said Dimitris Stergiou Kapsalis.

The blaze was the second wildfire to have struck near Athens on Monday. When it broke out in the afternoon, most firefighting resources were already engaged in tackling a much larger blaze to the west of the Greek capital. Although that one also burnt homes, it caused no casualties.

Recriminations have mounted about how authorities handled the deadly fire and why no evacuation was ordered. Public Order Minister Nikos Toskas defended the response to the emergency in a news conference Thursday night.

“I am trying for reasons of conscience to find mistakes … but operationally I can’t find major mistakes,” he said.

Rafina Mayor Evangelos Bournous said an evacuation wouldn’t have been an option.

“They speak of an evacuation plan. How can an evacuation plan be implemented on a settlement (built) outside of town planning, which cannot have places for people to gather,” he said.

“The evacuation plan was that everyone tried to leave all together and they got trapped on the coastal road.”

Authorities have said the fire moved with such speed that ordering the evacuation of the area could have resulted in even more casualties.

The worst affected area was Mati, a seaside town of holiday homes and permanent residences which experts have said was built like a “fire trap,” with houses built among pine trees, narrow streets, numerous dead ends and access to the sea hampered by cliffs.

Costas Kantouris And Elena Becatoros, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Early morning fire destroys building on 14th Street S.

Firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze for more than six hours

Golden residents invited to discuss Green New Deal

Golden is just one of 150 towns that are hosting a Green… Continue reading

Town of Golden council and staff drafting short term rental bylaw

The Town of Golden has been working on framework to address the… Continue reading

Golden gets wagging and walking for dog guides

According to the Canadian Survey on Disability, 2017, one in five Canadians… Continue reading

600 new campsites coming to provincial parks and recreation sites across B.C.

Tourism Minister announced half of the new spots to 13 most popular provincial parks

Municipalities protest after B.C. declares marijuana crops ‘farm use’

UBCM president seeks answers in letter to John Horgan government

CMHC defends mortgage stress test changes amid calls for loosening rules

Uninsured borrowers must now show they could service their mortgage if rates rose two per cent

B.C. woman left ‘black and blue’ after being pushed off 40-foot cliff at lake

West Shore RCMP looking for witnesses as investigation continues

Kootenay youth substance use trending downward: survey

A bi-annual survey distributed to regional schools shows that youth substance use is decreasing

Thunderstorms to bring heavy rain, risk of flash floods in the southern Interior

Ten to 30 millimetres of rain to fall over the early weekend

Unbe-leaf-able: Agassiz man finds more than 200 four-leaf clovers in a month

Walt Hardinge has found more than 219 four-or-more leaf clovers this spring alone

Crews fight fire with fire to keep blaze from northern Alberta town

The wildfire now covers some 920 square kilometres

Man in B.C. charged with murder and arson in 2016 New Brunswick death

He is charged in the death of 71-year-old Lucille Maltais, who was found inside a burned down home

Most Read