ATHENS: Greece´s government said on Thursday there were “serious” indications the fire in which most of the 82 people who perished in the country´s worst ever wildfires died may have been started deliberately.
“A serious piece of information has led to us opening an investigation” into possible “criminal acts” behind the starting of the fire on Monday that ravaged the coastal region of Mati east of Athens, Deputy Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Toskas said.
He said authorities were also examining whether another fire, which broke out hours earlier on Monday near Kineta to the west of the Greek capital, was “intentionally” lit. No one died in the Kineta fire.
“There are testimonies but I cannot say anything more now,” Toskas added at a news conference in Athens, which was attended by government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos and fire and police chiefs.
Toskas also stressed that “climate conditions were extreme due to climate change”.
Officials citing information from satellite maps have said that 13 fires broke out at the same time across the region of Attica — which includes Athens — on Monday.
As family members helped to identified the bodies of the dead on Thursday, anger has mounted over how authorities could have let the disaster happen.
Government spokesman Tzanakopoulos sought to address the criticism, saying that “the evacuation of Mati was not possible because the phenomenon only lasted an hour and a half”.
He added that the winds, which reached 120 kilometres (75 miles) an hour, were “the strongest recorded in the last eight years”.
The government has also announced a raft of measures to compensate those affected by the fires.