Multiple fires in different areas outside the capital of Athens seemed to ignite at once, leading investigators to probe whether they were deliberately set.
“Fifteen fires were started simultaneously on three different fronts in Athens,” government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos told reporters.
He said the Greek government has requested drones from the United States to “detect any suspicious activity.”
The fires exploded Monday afternoon in the forests near the seaside towns outside Athens. Fanned by winds of up to 60 miles per hour and fueled by parched vegetation, flames quickly grew into infernos that swept across the region, leveling homes, trapping victims and prompting thousands of people to flee for their lives.
The death toll climbed to 79 people and nearly 200 were injured, the government fire service said in a report Wednesday.
More than 1,000 homes and 300 vehicles were either destroyed or damaged by the fires, officials said….
A rainstorm overnight and into Wednesday morning in areas ravaged by the fires helped firefighters bring the blazes under control, officials said.
The fires reduced many homes in the resort villages of Mati, Rafina, Neos Voutzas and Kokkino Limanaki to rubble and ash.
Evangelos Bournous, the mayor of Rafina, told reporters that his village “no longer exists.”
Many residents tried to the outrun the rapidly advancing flames either in cars or on foot. Roadways were clogged with charred vehicles that people abandoned or got trapped inside of and died.
In Mati, firefighters recovered the bodies of 26 people, including children, found huddled together in a burned villa, officials said.
On the seaside cliffs in Mati, once green trees and brush were rendered blackened twigs. Many homes in the area were left as charred hulls.
Near one home, the burned carcass of a dog laid near a path leading to the water.”…