10:45 GMT +319 October 2018
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    A firefighting helicopter flies above burned-out cars in Mati east of Athens, Tuesday, July 24, 2018. Twin wildfires raging through popular seaside areas near the Greek capital have torched homes, cars and forests and killed at least 49 people, authorities said Tuesday, raising the death toll after rescue crews reported finding the bodies of more than 20 people huddled together near a beach

    Deadly Fires Sweeping Across Greece Triggered Deliberately, Authorities Suggest

    © AP Photo / Thanassis Stavrakis
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    Nikos Toskas, the Greek cabinet minister responsible for public order and civil protection, mentioned "significant signs" of arson as authorities are investigating one the country's deadliest fire outbreaks in living memory. His remarks came shortly after another senior official blamed illegally-built homes for blocking escape paths for victims.

    Greek officials suggest that the massive forest fires that devastated the region encompassing Athens, claiming the lives of at least 85 people, had been started intentionally.

    "We have serious indications and significant signs suggesting criminal acts of arson," Alternate Minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection Nikos Toskas told a news conference on Thursday.

    According to him, satellite images show that the deadly blaze was simultaneously started in a number of places in southern Greece near the capital.

    READ MORE: Greece Wildfires: It Was Tragic, Terrain Looked Like It Was Bombed – Firefighter

    Earlier, Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos claimed that the illegal construction of buildings in wooded areas contributed to the high death toll, blocking escape routes and trapping dozens of people.

    On Monday afternoon, over 15 wildfires broke out in the Attica region in southern Greece east and west of the capital of Athens, engulfing coastal communities popular among tourists. The town of Mati, located some 30 kilometers east of Athens, was the hardest-hit community, where a group of 26 bodies were found huddled together in a field just 30 meters from the sea.

    The death toll has climbed to 85, higher than the number of lives lost in the country's 2007 forest fires, and making this week's disaster the country's deadliest wildfire in decades. At least 187 people were injured, including 23 children. The search for more victims on land and at sea is still underway. Dozens remain missing.

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    arson, casualties, disaster, wildfire, Mati, Athens, Greece
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