Greece this weekend buried the victims of a devastating wildfire near Athens which killed at least 91 people, and has prompted criticism of the government’s handling of the disaster.
Rescue crews are still looking for survivors of the blaze which began last Monday in Mati, 30 km east of Athens, as the death toll rose to at least 91 with dozens more injured. “Some people survived but for those who died I wish they are well in heaven,” said 77-year old Theano Tsikoulou.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is facing fierce recriminations for the government’s response to the fire and has promised a national plan to avoid a repeat of the disaster.
Tsipras has accepted full political responsibility for the disaster and pledged a series of changes, including on illegal and haphazard construction which is thought to have worsened the blaze.
The main opposition New Democracy party, which leads in the polls, earlier called on the government to say how many people remain unaccounted for and criticized Tsipras’ television appearance on the night of the fire as a “sorry show.”
The search for a total of 25 remaining missing continues and many people remain in hospital, while the names of more victims have emerged. 59 bodies have been identified and a further 28 are still to be named, the fire brigade said on Sunday. Another four people have died in hospital.
Mourners gathered in a church in the Greek coastal town of Mati on Sunday where they wept and lit candles in memory of those killed when a massive wildfire swept through the popular resort near Athens earlier this week.
“Fires were burning everywhere, my husband and I were going and putting them out so that our house would not be burnt,” she said.
The wildfire left the area dotted with burnt-out trees, ashen earth and destroyed buildings as a clean-up operation continues.
Heavy downpours on Sunday hit parts of the region after heavy rainfall and flash floods in areas on Saturday, making it harder for the authorities trying to locate survivors and locals hoping to salvage what they can from the disaster.
The government has announced a long list of relief measures and promised to tackle decades-old problems, including haphazard and unlicensed residential building, to minimise the risk of a repeat disaster and to cool public anger.
A deputy mayor in Marathon, which administers some of the affected area, on Saturday, became the first official to resign over the wildfire.