Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Friday that he assumes political responsibility for the Greek wildfires that have killed at least 87 people this week.
In a cabinet meeting broadcast in Greek media, Tsipras said he wants to “assume completely before the great Greek people the political responsibility for this tragedy” because, in his words, “that is what the prime minister and the government should do.”
He also said the country will quickly undertake the task of identifying building violations, which are believed to have been a factor in the failure of many victims to escape. He also reiterated other reports that the fires are believed to have been caused by arson.
Forensics experts and coroners are working to identify dozens of people known to have perished in the country’s deadliest wildfires in decades.
Authorities say that the identification process is likely to take several more days to complete, because most of the bodies were completely carbonized.
“We have serious indications and significant findings of criminal activity,” Public Order Minister Nikons Tasks said Thursday. “We are troubled by many factors, and there have been physical findings that are the subject of an investigation.”
The fires broke out Monday and tore through a coastal area northeast of Athens popular with tourists. Rescuers and volunteers searching what is left of homes and small towns reported scenes of horror — charred bodies, including a group of 26 people huddled together, some embracing.
Relatives crowded morgues looking for loved ones. Forensic experts said many of the victims are impossible to identify without dental records or DNA samples.
Survivors said they ran to the beach to escape the flames. Some people who were already burned waded into the water and were picked up by ferries or fishing boats and the Coast Guard.
Many people are angry at what they say was the government’s slow response to the disaster and its failure to issue warnings. They also said authorities did not have an evacuation plan ready.
Firefighters said they were battling blazes on several fronts and that gale force winds helped spread the flames.