People gather with candles outside the Greek Parliament in Athens, Monday, July 30, 2018 in memory of victims of a deadly wildfire a week ago. More than 90 people died in the fire that gutted resorts east of Athens, the deadliest Greek fire in recent history. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Bodies of 70 killed in deadly Greek wildfires identified

Hundreds of people fled to beaches

July 31, 2018 - 7:33 am

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The bodies of 70 people killed by Greece's deadliest wildfire in decades have been identified, authorities said Tuesday, as forensic experts continue work to identify more remains recovered from the area.

Separately, the coast guard said Tuesday it had recovered the body of a woman from the sea in the Saronic Gulf south of Athens, many miles away from the site of the blaze. The body had not been identified and it was unclear whether it was related to the July 23 blaze that devastated the seaside resort of Mati northeast of Athens.

On Monday, coast guard special operations divers recovered another body from the waters off the coast of the fire area, believed to be of someone who drowned in their effort to escape. Identification was also pending.

During the blaze, hundreds of people fled to beaches, and many were forced to swim out to sea to escape the flames and choking smoke. A massive search operation involving vessels and divers continues in the waters near the fire zone.

At least 91 people are believed to have died in the blaze, but confusion surrounds the exact death toll.

On Sunday, the fire department said 59 bodies had been identified, while the identification procedure was pending for another 28. A further four people died of their injuries in hospitals.

However, the department explained on Tuesday that coroners found some bodies were so badly burned that some body bags contained the remains of more than one person. The intensity of the heat during the fire was such that it even melted metal, turning the hub caps of cars into molten rivulets.

That has led the fire department to stop issuing information about the number of bodies believed to have been recovered, changing instead to relating the number of identified victims.

A list of people officially registered as unaccounted for stood at 14.

Fanned by gale-force winds, the blaze raced through seaside resorts that are a mixture of permanent residences and holiday homes for Athenians. The high death toll has prompted criticism of the government over the absence of access roads, warning systems and other civil protection measures in residential areas surrounded by forest and at high risk of wildfires.

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