Bodies of 76 killed in deadly Greek wildfires identified
By ELENA BECATOROS, Associated Press
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The bodies of 76 people killed by Greece’s deadliest wildfire in decades have been identified, authorities said Tuesday, as forensic experts kept working to identify more remains recovered from the charred resort area.
Separately, the coast guard said Tuesday it had recovered the body of a woman from the sea in the Saronic Gulf south of Athens, many miles away from the site of the July 23 blaze. The body had not been identified and it was unclear whether it was related to the deadly wildfire that devastated the seaside resort of Mati northeast of Athens.
Coast guard special operations divers recovered another body Monday from waters off the coast of the fire area, believed to be someone who drowned in their effort to escape the flames. Identification of that body was pending.
During the blaze, hundreds of people fled to beaches, and many were forced to swim out to sea to escape the flames and choking smoke. A massive search operation involving ship and divers looking for more fire victims in the water is continuing near the fire zone.
At least 91 people are believed to have died in the blaze, but confusion surrounds the exact death toll.
On Sunday, the fire department said 59 bodies had been identified, while the identification procedure was pending for another 28. A further four people died of their injuries in hospitals.
However, the fire department explained Tuesday that coroners found some bodies were so badly burned that some body bags contained the remains of more than one person. The intensity of the heat during the fire was such that it even melted metal.
That has led the fire department to stop issuing information about the number of bodies believed to have been recovered, changing instead to relating the number of identified victims.
A list of people officially registered as unaccounted from the fire for stood at 8.
Fanned by gale-force winds, the blaze raced through seaside resorts that are a mixture of permanent residences and holiday homes for those living in the capital of Athens.
The high death toll has prompted strong criticism of the Greek government for not preparing enough for this year’s fire season. The Mati area lacked good evacuation access roads, warning systems and other civil protection measures even though it was a residential area surrounded by forest and at high risk of wildfires.