Forensics experts work on identifying the dead in Greek fire

State of emergency in Greece as wildfires continue, leaving at least 20 dead

Mortuary staff in Athens, shocked at the sight of burnt bodies including children, were expected to conclude post-mortems later on Friday after relatives of victims provided information and blood samples which could assist identifications.

"This is a hard process, more hard than other mass disasters we have dealt with", said coroner Nikolaos Kalogrias, adding that the bodies of most of the victims were completely charred.

ATHENS, Greece-Greek authorities said Thursday there were serious indications that a deadly wildfire that gutted a vacation resort near Athens was started deliberately, while experts warned that the devastated coastal town had been built like a "fire trap", with poor safety standards and few escape routes. Germany's federal criminal police said a team of its forensics specialists was in Greece to help authorities identify the dead.

"Prince Philip and I offer our deepest sympathies to the people of Greece in the wake of the devastating fires in Attica and across Greece". Rescue crews and volunteers continued to search on land and at sea for more victims.

As the fire raged, whipped by ferocious winds, hundreds of people sought refuge on nearby beaches.

Rafina Mayor Evangelos Bournous said an evacuation wouldn't have been an option, given the speed of the fire and the haphazard layout of the area, which featured small winding roads and cliffs next to the sea. Maria Sarieva said. "I believe she is alive". Although that one also burnt homes, it caused no casualties.

In a nation numbed by the scale of devastation, desperate relatives appeared on television to plead for information on those missing, while questions mounted on how people got trapped, and why no evacuation order was issued.

AFP  ANGELOS TZORTZINISA woman walks through torched cars after fire swept through the seaside village of Mati 40 kilometres northeast of Athens
AFP ANGELOS TZORTZINISA woman walks through torched cars after fire swept through the seaside village of Mati 40 kilometres northeast of Athens

Tsipras' remorse followed criticism from opposition political party New Democracy, which slammed the Greek leader for not apologizing at a similar conference Thursday.

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

"They speak of an evacuation plan".

"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.

About 500 homes were destroyed, and the fire brigade said there were closed-up homes that had not yet been checked.

The left-led government defended itself, saying there had been no time to evacuate people because the blaze spread very quickly.

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.

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