It appears that no order had been issued to evacuate the fire-ravaged town of Mati, as local government officials initially claimed, according to high-level public order ministry sources.
The issue of the measures taken to inform and direct citizens during the disastrous fires has fueled a furious blame game.
The measures taken or omitted before and during the disaster are at the centre of an investigation ordered by the Supreme Court Prosecutor’s office.
“The issue of the evacuation of the area is hypocritical. Everything happened in an extremely short time. There was no time to react, and the local municipality had no plan. In Mati, everything had been left to its own fate, and there was no infrastructure whatsoever,” the source said.
It should be noted that the Fire Service’s special teams – Hephaistos and Thiseas – which were created in 2010, were not marshaled to assist in the firefighting efforts. At their inception, 500 firemen had received special training and were provided with motorcycles. Their basic aim was to conduct patrols in forest areas and to take part in rescue missions, due to the teams’ flexibility. However, the teams have not been fully active over the last years.
It is also notable that the coroner’s report for at least five of the victims of the Mati wildfires indicated that they had drowned while trying to escape to the sea. The drownings are attributed to panic, and the possibility that people who did not know how to swim entered the water.
From the examination of about 25 people, the reports indicated that they died of burns, but it is unclear until toxicological tests are completed whether they had first passed out due to the smoke.
There have also been reports that the Counter-Terrorism Bureau is involved in the probe of the causes and handling of the wildfires, but Greek Police has denied this.