Greek village grieves as wildfire death toll climbs above 90
A memorial service has been held in Mati following the devastating blaze last week.
Officials in Greece have raised the death toll from a wildfire that raged through a coastal area east of Athens to 91 and reported that 25 people remain missing.
The updated figures came after hundreds of mourners attended a memorial service for the victims in Mati, the seaside village hardest-hit by the blaze which has now been confirmed as Europe’s deadliest forest fire in more than a century.
The fire saw flames speed through the village without warning on July 23. The vast majority of victims died in the fire itself, though a number drowned in the sea while fleeing the flames.
Local Greek Orthodox Church official Bishop Kyrillos presided over the memorial service at Dormition of the Virgin Mary Church in Mati on Sunday morning.
He said the community is mourning the loss of family, neighbours and friends.
“There’s fewer of us now than usually, the bishop said. “It is the victims of the recent fire that are missing – friends, relatives and acquaintances, next-door people that we saw every day in town and on the beach.”
Resident Angeliki Galiatsatou said she managed to narrowly escape the fire that killed others in their cars and homes.
“I came to pray for the people who were lost and I pray that God blesses us all,” she said.
Dozens of volunteer divers kept searching the sea off Mati on Sunday looking for the bodies of more possible victims.
Greek authorities have said they have reason to believe the fire resulted from arson and turned so deadly because winds of up to 62mph buffeted the pine-forested seaside resort at the time.
The Greek government has been criticised for how buildings and roads were laid out in the area and an alleged lack of adequate preparation for fire season.
More than 2,000 homes were damaged in the fire and roughly a quarter will have to be demolished.
The Holy Synod made up of all Greek bishops said in a letter read out at Sunday’s memorial service that everyone bears responsibility for protecting the environment.
“What words of comfort can you offer the person who has lost their father, their mother, the grandparents in whose arms their grandchildren were found?” Bishop Kyrillos said.
“What words of solace can you offer a mother who has lost her baby and left a few flowers on the beach?”