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Society

Private Probe Claims Confusion Worsened Greek Wildfire Death Toll

August 16, 2018

A report prepared as part of a suit being brought by three families of victims of the July 23 wildfires that killed 96 people – mirroring other probes – claims there was confusion in the response by authorities that made the death toll so high.

The report was compiled by a retired fire service officer, Andrianos Gourbatsis, who claimed there were a series of mistakes and oversights by former colleagues as well as police and local authorities blamed for hiding while the disaster struck at several points and destroying the seaside village of Mati northeast of Athens.

The 70-page report was prepared for lawyer Antonis Fousas, who is representing the families and who is expected to send it to prosecutors Ilias Zagoraios and Varvara Gnesouli who are handling an investigation into the blazes.

Prosecutors reports previously as well as that of Gourbatsis showed the worst fire broke out on Mt. Pendeli on July 23 at 4:35 p.m.,14 minutes before the first call to the fire service, based on a surveillance camera on a house, sources told Kathimerini.

With no disaster or evacuation plan in place and only a handful of boats dispatched to rescue people treading water in the sea for hours, where they had jumped to flee the flames and smoke in high winds, the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition was blamed for failing to respond.

Other findings suggest there was confusion created by the proximity of the fires to each other. For several minutes, sources said, it appeared that smoke over Mount Pendeli could be coming from Kineta, western Attica, where the first major fire broke out.

The reports were said to have found that a high-ranking fire service officer who had been on duty in Kineta did not respond to an order to move to Mati. He reportedly said the day after that he ordered to move too late and that the Mati fire was already out of control.

Another 10 relatives of victims, who claimed family members died after being directed by traffic police into the Mati blaze, are expected to sue as prosecutors are expected to bring charges against suspects next month but the case is expected to stay in Greek courts for years.

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