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

VIDEO: Scouts in Langley learn how to communicate during emergencies

Weekend event at Camp McLean part of worldwide Jamboree On The Air and Jamboree On The Internet

ELECTION 18: Langley Township, you chose Jack Froese for mayor

Township voters went with a familiar face, handing incumbent a third term as mayor

Mayoral results from across B.C.

Voters in 162 municipalities in B.C. set to elect mayor, council, school board and more

Who won and who didn’t in the Lower Mainland votes

A look at the region’s mayoral races, starting with Doug McCallum coming back to win in Surrey

Halloween on horseback

Langley riders club celebrates the season

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

Fraser Valley man dead after head on crash in Okanagan

Accident occurred at about 7:35 a.m.

Newly-elected Lower Mainland mayor won’t drink his city’s tap water

White Rock’s Darryl Walker is concerned about its quality

Kennedy Stewart challenged with building bridges as mayor of Vancouver: expert

The former NDP MP, who ran as an Independent, will lead 10 councillors divided across four parties

B.C. Youtuber to seal himself ‘in a jar’ to demonstrate impacts of climate change

Kurtis Baute wants to see how long he can last in a 1,000 cubic foot, air-tight greenhouse

One of Taiwan’s fastest trains derails, killing at least 18

The train was carrying more than 360 people

Scheer marks one-year countdown to federal election with campaign-style speech

Conservative Leader insists that it will be Justin Trudeau who ‘makes it personal’

Canada Post union announces rotating strikes in four Canadian cities

Mail will still be delivered but it will be delayed

Vancouver drag queens receive royal treatment during Kootenay Pride

Vancouver drag queens discuss the importance of Pride and growing acceptance of LGBTQ community

Most Read