ATHENS – A list of 10 reasons why the fire in eastern Attica had such a devastating impact in the seaside town of Mati was published on Thursday by an Athens University Geology and Geoenvironment Department research team, led by Professor Efthimis Lekkas.
Based on an analysis of the data concerning the fire and the response of state services, the team concluded that the very rapid sideways spread of the fire was responsible for the authorities failure to promptly issue warnings, which led to a large number of victims.
The full list of reasons given is as follows:
1. A typical wildland-urban-interface zone, where there is a higher chance of losses of human life globally and in Greece, with numerous such areas existing in Greece.
2. Strong westerly winds, whose speed at various times and locations exceeded 90 km per hour and played a very significant role in the fire’s rapid downslope spread.
3. Very rapid lateral spread of the fire, which was probably the main reason for the failure to issue prompt warnings, which contributed to the large number of victims.
4. A fire that chiefly affected taller and multi-storey buildings and residences, with less recorded damage to basements and ground floor buildings, a typical sign of a crown fire.
5. Based on witness accounts now being systematically analysed, there are signs that the population near the beach was informed of the advancing fire by people evacuating the western section of Mati, which was already on fire, not in good time by some official body. This indicates that almost no time of warning and response was given.
6. On-site inspection revealed construction weaknesses, with weak points on roofs, windows and other parts that contributed to their destruction. Their improvement could potentially have had very good results in reducing their vulnerability to fire.
7. An important role was played by the peculiarities of the town plan in Mati, which acted as a ‘trap’ for the population in its attempts to evacuate the area, with notably narrow roads, a large number of dead ends and especially lengthy blocks of buildings with no side exits.
8. Witness accounts, now undergoing analysis, traffic congestion compounded by panic and a large concentration of people, both local residents and visitors and tourists who may not have been well acquainted with the area, contributed to the disaster.
9. The morphology of the coast line that made access to the water difficult at most locations, with sheer escarpments and cliffs and few accessible beaches, which combined with low visibility and a choking atmosphere to trap people.
10. A possibly unexpected behavior by the fire due to the change in the type of vegetation. The fire had started in areas that had recently experienced fires and moved to an area where no recent fires had occurred, with a high concentration of flammable material that made its behavior more explosive.