Wed | Sep 26, 2018

Officials see 'serious indications' arson led to fire

Published:Friday | July 27, 2018 | 12:00 AM
A man stands next to his burned house and car as he speaks on his cellphone in Mati, east of Athens on Wednesday.

ATHENS, Greece (AP):

Frantic relatives headed to the Athens morgue yesterday to seek the fate of loved ones still missing after Greece's deadliest forest fire in decades, a blaze that Greek authorities said they increasingly suspect resulted from arson.

Public Order Minister Nikos Toskas said satellite image analysis and ground inspections provided "serious indications" that the fire that broke out in multiple places within a short time frame Monday and killed at least 82 people was set deliberately.

"We have serious indications and significant findings of criminal activity concerning arson," Toskas said. "We are troubled by many factors, and there have been physical findings that are the subject of an investigation."

He declined to provide more details.

 

CAUSE OF FIRE

 

The fire department's special arson section, which probes all major fires, was conducting the investigation to determine how the wildfire started. The cause of the blaze has not been established. Before Toskas' news conference, the mayor of the area where it broke out said it might have been sparks from a severed electricity pylon cable.

The death toll from the fire inched up yesterday morning, when the fire department put the number of people killed at 82. Rescue crews and volunteers continued to search on land and at sea for more victims. Many of the bodies were burned beyond recognition, making identification difficult.

At the morgue, relatives were informed about the steps needed to match one of the bodies held there to a missing person, including providing DNA samples and dental records.

"The procedure is difficult, harder than that of other mass disasters which we have dealt with in the past as a forensics department," coroner Nikolaos Kalogrias said. "Here, the main cause of death was burning, in most cases, the complete burning [of the body], so identification is very difficult."