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Frantic search for missing begins after devastating Greek wildfires

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Frantic search for missing begins after devastating Greek wildfires

Frantic search for missing begins after devastating Greek wildfires
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Greek authorities are beginning the task of trying to identify those who lost their lives in the worst wildfires in recent history.

At least 81 people died and an unknown number are missing after flames and smoke ripped through the coastal town of Mati, to the east of Athens, on Monday night.

A security source quoted by Reuters said the Greek anti-terrorist service is investigating whether arson could be to blame.

Speaking to Euronews from Mati, reporter Ayman Oghanna said some 40 people were thought to be missing and it was feared the death toll could top 100.

Rescue teams combed through the area and the sea on Wednesday trying to locate anything which could offer clarity on the missing.

Some people appeared on television to plead for help. "I'm looking for my mum," a young woman told Greek television as she sobbed.

One of the victims was Irishman Brian O’Callaghan-Westrop, the country’s ambassador to Athens told RTE. He had been on his honeymoon, having got married just last week. His wife Zoe was injured and is in hospital.

Greek chef Panos Kokkinidis has also been confirmed as having died, along with his mother, his wife and two children. Well-known for his work, fellow chefs paid tribute among many tributes. The Chefs’ Club of Greece called him “a wonderful family man and an excellent professional”.

Experts warned that identification of the dead will be challenging, because most of the corpses are badly charred.

The authorities announced measures to compensate families and businesses for damage suffered, Euronews reporter Fay Doulgkeri told Good Morning Europe.

Vasilis Kazoukas of the Federation of Greek Firefighters told Euronews that the priority was to find every missing person before investigating what went wrong.

Some have suggested that the sheer force of winds, thick pine, fire and panic was a deadly combination making even the most well-executed evacuation plan futile.

"Not even 1,000 airplanes would have helped prevent this catastrophe," said Dimitris Stathopoulos, head of the union of fire brigade employees. "In that cursed hour, the fire became a blowtorch aimed at the settlement."