Authorities’ failure to issue a timely warning about the approaching wildfire that scorched the town of Mati, a popular tourist resort 17 miles east of Athens, left “almost zero time between realizing the danger and reacting to it,” according to a preliminary inquiry into the deadly inferno released Tuesday by the University of Athens.
Researchers found that the narrow streets and numerous dead-ends that blocked off escape routes to the sea, as well as the absence of large public spaces in Mati, an area built up with no town planning, also contributed to the high death toll. Their findings were backed up by images taken during an inspection of the area’s fire-hit buildings and neighborhoods.
Access to the sea was worsened by the morphology of the coastline, experts said. “This [fact] combined with low visibility and a choking atmosphere largely led to a high number of people getting trapped,” they said.
Meanwhile, fire victims and relatives of those who died are preparing to file lawsuits while prosecutor Varvara Gnesouli has been receiving testimonies from the chiefs of various state bodies that were responsible for the prevention and containment of the fire.
Kathimerini understands that the prosecutor also plans to lift confidentiality restrictions in order to access communications between the various state services involved in fighting the fire to ascertain who knew when it broke out and when authorities were first informed about the deaths.