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Two more bodies found at sea after Greek wildfires


AFP Athens
The bodies of two people thought to have fled into the sea to escape the wildfires that ravaged coastal towns near Athens last week have been recovered, port police said today.
Confirmation that the pair were victims of the fire would bring the disaster's death toll to at least 93.
Police have now recovered eight bodies from the sea off a string of popular coastal communities that were devastated by the fires that broke out on July 23.
The fires burned with such ferocity that most people fled to the safety of the sea with just the clothes on their backs. Many then had to wait several hours in the water for help to arrive.
It was local fishermen, not the coastguard or navy, who first came to their aid.
A merchant marine official told AFP that the search for further victims was continuing.
The rightwing and centrist opposition accuse the government of bungling its response in an area frequently hit by wildfires, and of trying to hide the scale of the loss of human life as the disaster unfolded.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he assumed "political responsibility" for the tragedy but rejected accusations of a botched response.
Government officials have insisted that with winds blowing at speeds of up to 120 kilometres (75 miles) per hour, there was little time to mount an effective evacuation.
Tsipras visited the scene yesterday without informing the press, in what local media said was a bid to avoid protests by residents, while the opposition conservative New Democracy party said he toured the area in secret "like a thief".
"If the prime minister had chosen to be accompanied by cameras, you would have accused us of staging a PR stunt," government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos responded.
The Athens observatory yesterday said the fire had burned an estimated 1,260 hectares (3,100 acres).
The government has offered emergency assistance of 5,000 euros (USD 5,800) to survivors.
Relatives of those killed will receive 10,000 euros, while minors who lost their parents are to receive a monthly stipend of 1,000 euros, he said.
Yesterday evening, several hundred people held a candlelight vigil for the dead and missing in central Athens' Syntagma square outside parliament.
"We have to mobilise for the dead. The state is non-existent in Greece," said Anastasios Giorgiakoupoulos, one of the participants.
"It does not protect its citizens and that can't continue any longer.

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First Published: Jul 31 2018 | 7:00 PM IST

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