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Rescue crews search for more victims following Greece wildfires

A fire broke out north east of Athens in the area of Rafina.

The wildfire destroyed many houses in Mati, east of Athens (Antonis Nikolopoulos/Eurokinissi via AP)
The wildfire destroyed many houses in Mati, east of Athens (Antonis Nikolopoulos/Eurokinissi via AP)

Rescue crews and volunteers are searching on land and at sea for further victims from the country’s deadliest forest fires for decades.

Frantic relatives looking for missing loved ones have been heading to the morgue in Athens.

Those arriving at the morgue were being informed of the necessary steps to match the missing and the dead, including providing DNA samples and dental records.

A fire broke out north-east of Athens in the area of Rafina, a seaside resort of permanent residences and holiday homes popular with Athenians and tourists.

It swept through the area fanned by gale-force winds.

Hundreds fled to nearby beaches, with many swimming out to sea to escape the ferocious flames and choking smoke that killed 82 people.

Burned cars are collected together at an old football field in Rafina (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

In a statement, the Queen offered her sympathies to the victims and paid tribute to the emergency services.

She said: “Prince Philip and I offer our deepest sympathies to the people of Greece in the wake of the devastating fires in Attica and across Greece.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the victims of this terrible tragedy and to all those who have lost their homes.

“I pay tribute to the courage and dedication of the Greek emergency services and the volunteers that have provided support.”

Dozens of those who fled spent hours at sea before being picked up by coast guard vessels, fishing boats and a passing ferry. Several of the dead were people who drowned.

Defence minister Panos Kammenos, left, talks to local residents (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

The worst affected area was the seaside community of Mati, where the majority of victims were found, including 26 people found huddled together, many embracing.

Defence Minister Panos Kammenos visited Mati on Thursday morning and was heckled by distraught men and women, who accused authorities of not doing enough in the initial hours of the fire.

“People died for nothing,” one woman sobbed at the minister.

The flag on the Acropolis hill flies at half-mast (Theodora Tongas/AP)

Maria Saridou arrived at the morgue in the Greek capital accompanied by her son to provide DNA samples.

They were looking for Ms Saridou’s 55-year-old sister, Eleni, who had gone swimming with a friend in Mati.

“We found her car, it wasn’t burnt, nor was the house,” said 60-year-old Ms Saridou. “It’s just that we can’t find her. I believe she’s alive… nobody knows where she went.”

The friend her sister had gone swimming with survived with light burns to the foot, Ms Saridou said, but they became separated in the chaos of the fire.

“We just want to find her,” said Ms Saridou’s 25-year-old son Asot Kostoyan. “Just to find her, nothing else.”

The fire department’s special arson section, which probes all major fires, is conducting the investigation to determine how this week’s wildfire started.

The mayor of the area where it broke out said it might have been caused by sparks from a severed electricity pylon cable.



From Belfast Telegraph