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UPD Death toll rises to 90 after Athens wildfires victims die in hospital

Two more victims of Athens wildfires died over the weekend in hospitals of the Greek capital A 55-year-old woman died on Saturday night and an 85-year-old man on Sunday noon. Both were hospitalized in intensive care units since 23. July 2018. The woman had reportedly extensive burn on 90% of her body. She and the man were the sixth and the seventh fires victim that dies in the hospitals.

With the man’s death, the death toll rose to 90.

Based on a Fire Service statement two days ago, one person remained missing.

Two bodies remain unidentified, as have not been sought by relatives, DNA samples are available.

It is unclear whether the two bodies that were found in the sea have been identified and have been added to the dead.

Hospitalized are still 37 adults with 8 of them intubated and in intensive care unit.

Also one child remains in a children hospital, thirteen days after the tragedy.

Investigation

Greek authorities investigate how a tragedy of such extend took place just 30 km away from Greek capital Athens. According to latest information, the investigating prosecutor has requested all taped conversations of the Fire Service in order to shed light into what exactly happened on Monday afternoon on 23. July 2018.

The leadership of the Fire Service has become the target of severe criticism in handling the situation.

Investigation focuses on the following questions:

  • Was evacuation order given and if yes at what time exactly?
  • What time were the Fire Service forces mobilized?
  • Was there proper coordination between Fire Service, Police and Coast Guard?

Apart from potential operational grave mistakes on the part of  state institutions, several other factors played an important role in leading to so many deaths.

Among them is the ‘anarchist’ town planning, the vegetation in the area as wells as the extreme weather conditions with wind blowing with intensity of up to 11 Beaufort.

French Fire Service experts

Media cite two experts from the French Fire Service who visited the area two days after the disaster. After evaluation of aerial footage and investigation on the spot, the French fire experts came to the conclusion that the main causes that led to the tragedy are considered to be:

  • the very strong winds 
  • fire-fueling vegetation in house yards
  • problematic reforestation
  • minimum reaction time.

The French experts reportedly point out that “even if there was a major preventive mechanism according to the French standards, this would have collapsed in front of the fiery blaze that it ha dot deal with.”

They also point out at mistakes such as no proper reforestation with many low trees that supplied the blaze with fuel in large quantities.

Forestation

The continuation of vegetation has contributed to the spreading of the fire in the urban area. “The findings made on the ground allowed us to confirm that vegetation at the edge of the inhabited area, but also within the plots facilitated the spread of the fire and increased its intensity.”

The area of Mati was originally agricultural land that started to turn into a resort in the early 1960’s, while the forestation began in the late 1980’s reportedly by the new residents in the area. It was mostly pine trees that were planted. Pine cones on fire are considered as “bomb shells” in case of wildfire as they are spewed quite away.

Mati picture from 1945

Mati aerial picture from 1945

Pictures are from Greek National Cadastre & Mapping Agency and uploaded by Dionysia Piperidou

Mati aerial picture 2010

An article posted three days after the fire claims that also the forestation along Leoforos Marathonos was with the wrong type of vegetation. The forestation took place in 2004 ahead of the Olympic Games.Marathonos Avenue lies between Penteli mountain, where the fire started, and the east side of Mati settlement.

“Planting pine trees turned the Avenue that was supposed to function as anti-fire zone into a killer,” writes award winning agriculturist Stamatis Sekliziotis.

Video shows the moment the fire crosses Marathonos Avenue.

The blaze reached Mati within minutes…

Minister for Civil Protection Nikos Toskas resigned on Thursday.

But locals still mourned their dead and will not easily forget the nightmare they experienced on 23. July.

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