Greece Probes Arson of Devastating Wildfires Based on ‘Serious Information’
“A serious piece of information has led to us opening an investigation [into possible] criminal acts [behind the starting of the fire on Monday],” Deputy Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Toskas said, as cited by AFP.
The wildfires broke out near the port town of Rafina, 30 kilometers (18 miles) to the east of Athens, and at Kineta, 55 kilometers (35 miles) to the west. Hundreds were trapped by the fires at the resort of Mati on Monday night, and many were burned to death.
Toskas also revealed the Greek authorities were also examining whether the fire which broke out near Kineta was “intentionally” lit even though it claimed no lives.
“There are testimonies but I cannot say anything more now,” the official added at a news conference in Athens, which was also attended by government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos and fire and police chiefs.
“Climate conditions were extreme due to climate change,” Toskas also stressed.
Based on data from satellite maps, Greek officials have said that a total of 13 wildfires broke out on the Attica Peninsula on Monday.
“The evacuation of Mati was not possible because the phenomenon only lasted an hour and a half,” government spokesman Tzanakopoulos said, reacting to anger as to how the authorities handled the emergency situation.
He added that the winds, which reached 120 kilometers (75 miles) an hour, were “the strongest recorded in the last eight years”.
A fire service spokeswoman announced late on Thursday the death of the 82nd person to perish in the calamity.
The death toll of 82 makes the wildfires on Greece’s Attica Peninsula Europe’s deadliest fire outbreak since the start of the 21st century.
According to a website launched by private citizens, a total of 27 people are still missing.
At least 187 have been hospitalized with injuries, and 71 were still being treated as of Wednesday evening.
About half of almost 2,500 homes inspected by the Greek authorities after the wildfires are now uninhabitable.
The government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said it would provide EUR 5,000 per affected property in emergency aid, and EUR 10,000 euro to the immediate family of those who were killed.
It has also set up a relief fund worth an initial EUR 40 million (USD 47 million) which is also open to donations.
(Banner image: TV grab from Skai)