Costas Kantouris and Demetris Nellas AP
MATI, Greece – Firefighters in Greece increased the death toll from wildfire raging through a coastal area east of Athens at 91 and reported that on Sunday six people were missing days after Europe's deadliest forest fire more than a century.
Before the national fire service updated the official death toll, it stood at 86, as hundreds of mourners at a church service on Sunday morning were the hardest for the victims in the coastal village.
The fire burned on 23 July without warning by the village of Mati. A database of the Disaster Research Center in Brussels shows it as the deadliest forest fire in Europe since 1900.
The vast majority of victims died in the fire itself, although a number drowned in the sea fleeing from the flames. By Sunday evening, the Greek authorities had not submitted a report on the missing persons.
Stavroula Malliri, spokeswoman for the Greek firefighting service, reported a collapse that showed why the death toll continued to rise and the list of missing persons was difficult
Malliri said that 59 victims were identified from corpses or remains on Sunday night and four other people injured by the fire had died in the surrounding hospitals. But identities have not yet been linked to another 28 remnants, she said.
Relatives or friends reported over 25 people who were officially reported missing, Malliri said.
A firefighter said some or all of the 25 missing people could be among the as yet unidentified remains of the dead. The official demanded anonymity because the fire is still under investigation.
On the morning of the memorial service in Mati, Bishop Kyrillos, a senior representative of the Greek Orthodox Church, said the community mourns the simultaneous loss of family, neighbors and friends. 19659014] "We are now less than usual," said the bishop. "It's the victims of the recent fire that are missing – friends, relatives and acquaintances, neighbors we've seen every day in town and on the beach."
Local resident Angeliki Galiatsatou said she just barely managed to kill the fire that killed others in their cars and homes.
"I came to pray for the people who were lost, and I pray that God bless us all"
Dozens of volunteer divers, some of them retired marine seals, ventured into the sea again on Sunday to search for the bodies of potential victims. The search was canceled because of a sudden thunderstorm, with no result.
Greek authorities have stated that they have reason to believe that the fire was caused by arson and was so deadly, because wind speeds of up to 100 km / h toppled the air at that time pine-forested seaside resorts.
The Greek government has also come under fire as to how buildings and roads in the area have been constructed and that it is reportedly lacking in preparation for the fire season. More than 2,000 houses were damaged in the fire and around a quarter had to be demolished, Greek officials said Friday.
The Holy Synod, consisting of all the Greek bishops, said in a letter read at the memorial service on Sunday to protect the environment from haphazard development.
"What consolations can you offer to the person who lost her father, her mother, her grandparents in whose arms her grandchildren were found?" Said Kyrillos. "What consolations can you give to a mother who lost her baby and left some flowers on the beach?"
Nellas reported from Athens.
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