Athens, Greece.- A flash flood has struck a northern Athens suburb following a squall, with the Greek capital’s fire department receiving 140 calls for assistance and to pump water from flooded homes and businesses. Fire crews headed to an open-air parking lot in the suburb of Maroussi on Thursday to see if there were any people trapped in cars that were bobbing in a suddenly created muddy lake. Authorities urged drivers to avoid the area and shut down a side road off the main highway leading north out of Athens.
The flash flood comes three days after a devastating wildfire northeast of Athens killed at least 82 people and injured more than 180. While frantic relatives headed to the Athens morgue Thursday to seek the fate of loved ones still missing after Greece’s deadliest forest fire in decades, while rescue crews and volunteers searched on land and at sea for more potential victims.
The death toll from the fire that started Monday night inched up, with the fire department putting the number at 82 on Thursday morning. Many of the bodies were burnt beyond recognition, making identification difficult.
The fire department’s special arson section, which probes all major fires, is conducting the investigation to determine how this week’s wildfire started. The cause of the blaze is not yet known. The mayor of the area where it broke ousaid it might have been sparks from a severed electricity pylon cable.
At the morgue, relatives were informed about the steps needed to match one of the bodies held there to a missing person, including providing DNA samples and dental records. Police said a team specializing in the identification of disaster victims was brought in at the request of the fire department.
“The procedure is difficult, harder than that of other mass disasters which we have dealt with in the past as a forensics department,” coroner Nikolaos Kalogrias said. “Here, the main cause of death was burning, in most cases the complete burning (of the body), so identification is very difficult.”