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article imageGreek fire death toll rises to 91: officials

By AFP     Aug 6, 2018 in World

A 95-year-old woman injured in Greece's deadliest fire last month died early Monday, raising the death toll to 91 as another top official blamed for the disaster stepped down.

The interior ministry said Yiannis Kapakis, head of the civil protection authority, had resigned, the fourth departure since the July 23 fire struck the coastal resort of Mati near Athens.

Police minister Nikos Toskas had likewise quit last week, and the heads of the police and fire brigade were replaced on Sunday.

Another 36 people are still hospitalised, six of them in critical condition.

Opposition parties have accused the government of failing to provide adequate warning and evacuate Mati -- which lies in a region frequently hit by wildfires -- in addition to subsequently trying to hide the scale of the loss of human life as the disaster unfolded.

The fires burned with such ferocity that most people fled to the sea with just the clothes on their backs.

In the days that followed, the firefighters and police issued conflicting announcements over what went wrong.

One police union this week said the fire department officers had not promptly notified police of the fire's exact location so they could set up proper roadblocks in the area.

As a result, many drivers were mistakenly diverted into the fire zone and died after becoming trapped in Mati's narrow streets.

The government had 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.

Officials also said that decades of illegal construction in the area had blocked escape roads to the coast.

The environment ministry has now pledged to tear down illegal buildings -- permitted by successive administrations to remain standing in return for fines and possible votes -- in Mati and other fire-prone areas.

A judicial investigation into possible faults by state officials is under way.

The relatives of two people who perished in the fires have also sued the authorities for negligence and exposure to danger.

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