'Left at God's mercy': Greeks seek answers as fire toll rises

'Left at God's mercy': Greeks seek answers as fire toll rises

With many people still unaccounted for, a harrowing account emerged from the head of the Greek forestry federation, Gorgeous Papacies, who said fire-fighters had focused their resources on a separate fire to the west of Athens, leaving the East Attic coast exposed.

Survivors of one of the worst Greek disasters in living memory already heckled a government minister when he visited the scene less than 30 km (17 miles) east of Athens on Thursday.

"We have serious indications and significant findings of criminal activity concerning arson", public order minister Nikos Toskas said. He said police had testimonies to that effect, but did not elaborate.

With the toll from Greece's deadliest wildfire in decades expected to rise further, about 300 firemen and volunteers combed the area for dozens still missing.

A civil defence spokesman said "dozens of cars were stuck on several main roads" after the early afternoon downpour, adding that traffic was gradually returning to normal. "You left us at God's mercy!"

One woman was looking for her brother, who had been returning from work when the flames took hold.

"Unless a miracle happens, a lot of people will burn to death", he wrote. Where are they? They went somewhere.

A satellite map of the area revealed the scale of the fire damage, showing that more than half the 12,760 acres affected were residential areas. Hundreds more made it to the beaches and rocky coastline, some waiting in the sea for hours before being rescued.

"How is it possible to have so many lives lost and not investigate who is responsible for such town planning chaos?" said Infrastructure Minister Christos Spirtzis.

Relatives of the missing face another hurdle because many victims' bodies are burned beyond recognition, making identification hard.

"The procedure is difficult, harder than that of other mass disasters which we have dealt with in the past as a forensics department", coroner Nikolaos Kalogrias said.

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

The government has announced a long list of relief measures including a one-off 10,000 euro ($11,600) payment for families of the victims.

"A drop in the ocean", read the front page of newspaper Ta Nea. A group of experts from the University of Athens' Faculty of Geology and Geo-environment said the layout of the resort had acted like a "fire trap" with access to the sea hampered by cliffs, and homes built in wooded areas with little provision for fire safety.

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