Thu | Sep 20, 2018

Death toll from Greek wildfire reaches 91 as village grieves

Published:Monday | July 30, 2018 | 12:00 AM
People escaping wildfires wade into the waters of the 'Silver Coast' beach in Mati, Greece. Dozens were either killed by flames or drowned as they tried to flee the fire into the nearby sea, waiting for hours in the water for rescue from local fishermen and other boat owners.

MATI (AP):

Fire officials in Greece raised the death toll from a wildfire that raged through a coastal area east of Athens to 91 and reported that 25 people were missing Sunday, six days after Europe's deadliest forest fire in more than a century.

Before the national fire service updated the official number of fatalities, it stood at 86 as hundreds of mourners attended a Sunday morning memorial service for the victims in the seaside village hardest hit by the blaze.

The fire sped flames through the village of Mati, a popular resort spot, without warning on July 23. A database maintained by the Centre for the Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters in Brussels shows it as the deadliest wildfire in Europe since 1900.

The vast majority of victims died in the fire itself, though a number drowned in the sea while fleeing the flames. Until Sunday night, Greek officials had not provided a tally of the people reported missing.

At the morning memorial service in Mati, the senior local Greek Orthodox Church official, Bishop Kyrillos, said the community was grieving the simultaneous loss of family, neighbours and friends.

"There's fewer of us now than usually," the bishop said. "It is the victims of the recent fire that are missing - friends, relatives and acquaintances, next-door people that we saw every day in town and on the beach."

Local resident, Angeliki Galiatsatou said she narrowly managed to escape the fire that killed others in their cars and homes.

"I came to pray for the people who were lost and I pray that God blesses us all," she said.