SMA News – Agencies The number of dead from a fire which ripped through a Greek coastal town reached at least 81 on Wednesday as frantic relatives tried to track down people missing from the inferno and officials began the grim task of identifying bodies.
Hundreds of people were trapped in the eastern resort of Mati on Monday night as flames whipped around them. Many jumped into the sea to survive but others died from suffocation, either in their cars or trapped on the edge of steep cliffs.
One of the victims was Irishman Brian O’Callaghan-Westrop, Ireland’s ambassador to Athens Orla O’Hanrahan told Ireland’s RTE. The broadcaster said he was on his honeymoon.
He and his wife Zoe, who survived, had got married last week.
The Greek anti-terrorist service was investigating suggestions that the blaze – one of several throughout the Attica region – was started deliberately, a security source said. Arson is often thought to be behind some fires in a crude attempt to clear forest land for building.
The fire brigade said the death in hospital of one person who had initially survived brought the toll up to 81. The service had also received dozens of calls reporting missing people, but it was unclear if some of them were among those already found dead, a spokesperson said.
Some people appeared on television to plead for help.
“I’m looking for my mum,” a young woman told Greece’s SKAI TV between sobs.
The fire broke out on Monday at 4:57 p.m. (1357 GMT), an hour which is observed as a siesta time in rural Greek communities. Mati was popular with local tourists, including pensioners.