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Greek prime minister Tsipras visits scene of wildfire disaster

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Firemen investigate inside a burnt out property at the seaside resort of Mati, in the eastern Attica region after the deadly fires swept the area earleir in the week on July 27, 2018. A “serious” piece of information indicates that “criminal acts” were behind a fire that resulted in the deaths of most of the 82 people killed in the country’s worst ever wildfires, a Greek minister said. / AFP PHOTO / Louisa GOULIAMAKI

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Monday paid his first visit to the area ravaged by the country’s worst ever wildfires as anger mounts over his government’s response to the disaster that left scores of people dead.

His trip was not announced beforehand in what local media said was a bid to avoid protests by residents of the hard-hit seaside villages east of Athens — Mati and Rafina.

Tsipras met the region’s local authorities and fire brigade officials for about an hour, the brief official statement said.

His government has faced mounting criticism as residents battle to resume their lives with the help of the authorities and volunteers.

The fires struck the coastal villages popular with holidaymakers on July 23 and burned with such ferocity that most people fled to the safety of the sea with just the clothes on their backs.

The death toll rose to 91 on Sunday and another 25 people remain missing, but many may be among 28 victims whose bodies are being examined by forensic pathologists and have not been identified, local authorities said.

Tsipras has said he assumed “political responsibility” for the tragedy as a bitter debate rages over who was to blame.

On Sunday, the rightwing and centrist opposition accused the government of initially trying to hide the loss of human life.

The government has said there were indications that arson was involved and an investigation has been opened.

Experts have said that a mix of poor urban planning, including a lack of proper access routes and the construction of too many buildings next to combustible forest areas contributed to what were Europe’s worst wildfires this century.

A vigil for the victims will be held outside parliament in Athens later on Monday.


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