Greek fire victims sue authorities over deaths in Mati

Locals try to extinguish a fire at a nearby house as a wildfire burns at the village of Mati, near Athens, Greece, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis/Files

ATHENS (Reuters) – The relatives of a woman and a man killed in a wildfire near Athens last week sued state authorities, the fire brigade and the police over their deaths, a judicial source said on Wednesday.

The authorities could be liable for criminal charges such as involuntary manslaughter, bodily harm, exposure that led to deaths and arson in what they call a “biblical catastrophe,” the source said, citing the lawsuit.

A Greek prosecutor is investigating the cause of the wildfire and the role of authorities in responding to the blaze that killed at least 91 people in the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas.

Both victims died trying to escape the deadly flames, according to the lawsuit. Their bodies were found about 400 metres (yards) away from their homes.

The 70-year old teacher was trapped in the garage, as his wife and family friends from the United States struggled to reach the nearest beach.

Two days before the disaster they were all celebrating his daughter’s wedding, the lawsuit said. The wildfire left the area dotted with burnt-out trees, ashen earth and destroyed buildings.

Greek ministers have said there are indications that the cause of the fire was arson. On Wednesday, one person was detained and questioned over the case, police officials said.

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