Unprecedented fire devastation
26 July 2018
RESCUE crews are still searching through charred homes and cars for those still missing after the deadliest wildfires to hit Greece in decades decimated coastal areas near Athens, killing about 100 people and sending thousands fleeing.
A satellite map of the area revealed the scale of the fire damage, showing that more than half the 12,760 acres affected, were residential areas.
With many people still unaccounted for, a harrowing account emerged from the head of the Greek forestry federation, George Papadias, who said firefighters had focused their resources on a separate fire to the west of Athens, leaving the East Attica coast exposed. The two fires were fanned by gale-force winds of up to 100km/h that hampered firefighting efforts.
He had been in the village of Kokkino Limanaki, on the southern edge of Mati when the fire struck. It was like a horror movie, he said, with injured and elderly pleading for help, and not being in a position to do anything.
The bodies of the twin nine-year-old girls Vassiliki and Sofia Philippopoulou, who were missing with their grandparents near Mati, were identified yesterday through a DNA test.
In another moving story, some 26 men, women and children made it almost as far at the gated staircase leading down to the Greek coastline and the safety of water. In the end, they simply couldn’t see it. Their charred bodies were discovered at a villa at the seaside resort of Mati, 40 kilometres northeast of Athens. They were huddled together in small groups, "perhaps families, friends or strangers, entwined in a last attempt to protect themselves as they tried to reach the sea", he said.
Rafina Mayor Evangelos Bournous says one in four houses have been completely destroyed by the fire, while 50% more have been partially damaged.
The mayor defended the role of the military, arguing that if the army had not been able to stop the fire spreading, it would have razed the entire area.
Illegal house construction blamed
Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos has told the BBC illegal construction contributed to one of the country’s worst-ever wildfire disasters. He said building by residents between wooded areas was a "crime" that had resulted in blocking escape routes.
Mr Kammenos was confronted by angry locals as he visited devastated areas.
Flags across Greece were flying at half-staff after prime minister Alexis Tsipras declared three days of national mourning for the victims.
According to the mayor of Marathon, Ilias Psinakis, around 3000 homes have been destroyed by the blaze at the seaside resorts of Mati and Rafina. One of them was his own.