May have caused the wildfire that killed almost 90 Greek people

The fire department’s special arson section, which probes all major fires, was conducting the investigation to determine how the wildfire started. The cause of the blaze has not been established. Before Toskas’ news conference, the mayor of the area where it broke out said it might have been sparks from a severed electricity pylon cable.

The death toll from the fire inched up Thursday morning, when the fire department put the number of people killed at 82. Rescue crews and volunteers continued to search on land and at sea for more victims. Many of the bodies were burned beyond recognition, making identification difficult.

At the morgue, relatives were informed about the steps needed to match one of the bodies held there to a missing person, including providing DNA samples and dental records.

The fire broke out near Rafina, northeast of Athens. Fanned by gale-force winds, it raced through seaside resorts of full-time homes and vacation residences popular with Athenians and tourists.

The large area the flames swept through further complicated the process of identifying victims. Officials said there was no way of knowing how many people were there at the time. By Thursday afternoon, there was still no official number of missing.

During the fire, hundreds fled to nearby beaches, with many swimming out to sea to escape the ferocious flames and choking smoke. Dozens spent hours at sea before being picked up by coast guard vessels, fishing boats and a passing ferry. Several of the dead were people who drowned.

Hundreds of homes were burnt. The speed with which the flames spread took many by surprise. The narrow streets of Mati, an area built up with no town planning, quickly became clogged with parked and abandoned cars as people tried to flee, hampering access by firefighting trucks and blocking escape routes.

Some of the casualties are believed to have tried to make it to the shore through narrow pathways, but lost their way in the thick smoke or had their paths blocked by the swift-moving blaze. Even those on beaches were not safe, as flames burned trees and vegetation at the water’s edge, while flaming pine cones rained downward, survivors have said.

But survivors have accused authorities of failing to adequately prepare and for not evacuating the area, as well as not responding fast enough.

Charitable Foundation Winston Churchill prepares humanitarian assistance to victims of the fire in Greece. Donate

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