Greece to begin laying wildfire victims to rest amid recriminations

People watch a wildfire raging in the town of Rafina, near Athens, Greece, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece will begin burying the victims this weekend of a devastating wildfire near Athens which killed at least 88 people and raised recriminations over the government’s handling of the disaster.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras took political responsibility on Friday for the tragedy as opposition leaders accused the government of failing to adequately safeguard lives.

On Sunday, three members of the same family are due to be laid to rest in the first known funeral since the blaze broke out on Monday in the seaside village of Mati, 30 km (17 miles) east of the Greek capital Athens.

“We will say our final goodbye to our much-loved Grigoris, Evita and Andreas … tragic victims in Mati,” the Fytrou family said in a statement published by the Athens news agency, asking media not to attend.

Missing twin nine-year old girls Sofia and Vasiliki Filippopoulou, whose pictures have featured internationally including in The Times newspaper, were confirmed dead, state broadcaster ERT reported on Saturday.

DNA tests showed the pair, who had prompted a national outpouring of sympathy, and their grandparents had died in the blaze at Mati. Their grandfather’s burnt-out car was located outside a plot of land where 26 people died, with some of the victims found embracing each other in death, ERT said.

The government has announced a long list of relief measures and promised to tackle decades-old problems, including haphazard and unlicensed residential building, to minimise the risk of a repeat disaster and cool public anger.

A deputy mayor in Marathon, which administers some of the fire-affected area, on Saturday became the first official to resign over the wildfire.

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