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An aerial view shows extensive fire damage in the village of Mati near Athens An aerial view shows extensive fire damage in the village of Mati near Athens  (AFP or licensors)

Death toll rises in Greek wildfires

Recovery teams in Greece are picking through burnt-out homes after a devastating wildfire killed over 80 people in Mati. Earlier this week, Pope Francis expressed his sorrow to all those affected by the fires, and assuring his prayers for the deceased.

By John Carr

Recovery teams and stunned residents of the seaside resort town of Mati, northeast of Athens, are still picking over the gutted remains of hundreds of homes, three days after a devastating wild fire that killed at least 83 people. And the death toll rises daily.

Dozens of people are still unaccounted for, as relatives of those missing are crowding into the main morgue here in Athens trying to find out what has happened to loved ones. Mati itself resembles a bombed-out war zone, with entire blocks utterly devastated. Some 3,000 homes are reported destroyed, along with about 1,000 cars. About 200 injured people are in hospital, some in critical conditions with extensive burns.

It was on Monday evening that the idyllic calm of Mati was shattered by a sudden tsunami of flame that roared down from the pine-covered hills with gale force, incinerating everyone who couldn’t flee fast enough, a freak natural disaster that has left the country stunned.

Survivors have bitterly accused the national and local governments of not having evacuation plans in place for serious fires. A massive relief effort is underway to provide for the homeless at Mati, but public indignation is at fever pitch, especially as more bodies are discovered in the blackened ruins. And it will be years before that vacationers’ paradise, can get back to normal.

Listen to John Carr's report
26 July 2018, 18:17