Death toll in Greek wildfires rises to 87


Greece has "serious indications" that a fire that killed at least 83 people near Athens earlier this week was started deliberately, Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Toskas says.

Tsipras' contrition comes after the main opposition New Democracy party criticized a government news conference on Thursday night where not one word of apology was heard.

With many people still unaccounted for, a harrowing account emerged from the head of the Greek forestry federation, Gorgeous Papacies, who said fire-fighters had focused their resources on a separate fire to the west of Athens, leaving the East Attic coast exposed.

"This government has just added unbridled cheek to its abject failure in protecting lives and people's property", said New Democracy spokeswoman Maria Spyraki.

The Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras, called the wildfires an "unspeakable tragedy" in a televised address and declared three days of mourning for the 85 victims. A cabinet meeting was scheduled for 1400 GMT on Friday.

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Politicians' criticism reflected anger among the survivors. "You left us at God's mercy!"

Toskas said he had offered his resignation but Tsipras rejected it.

"I am trying for reasons of conscience to find mistakes ... but operationally I can't find major mistakes".

"Why didn't they protect the people by implementing on time the available plan for an organised and coordinated evacuation in the areas that were threatened?" she said.

The left-led government announced a long list of relief measures including a one-off €10,000 (RM47,372) payment and a job in the public sector for victims' spouses and near relatives.

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About 300 fire fighters and volunteers were still combing the area on Friday for dozens still missing.

More than 15 fires broke out on three fronts in that part of southern Greece on Monday afternoon, according to government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos, who described the challenge to firefighters as unprecedented. Hundreds more made it to the beaches and rocky coastline, some waiting in the sea for hours before being rescued.

Numerous dead were burned beyond recognition and the identification procedure, relying on DNA samples from relatives, is expected to take several days to be completed. But for many, that was not enough to ease the pain.

The worst affected area was Mati, a seaside town of holiday homes and permanent residences which experts have said was built like a "fire trap", with houses built among pine trees, narrow streets, numerous dead ends and access to the sea hampered by cliffs. The fire started on Monday.

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