In Greece, floating candles mark anniversary of deadly fire

International

A firefighting helicopter drops water onto a wildfire in the town of Rafina, near Athens, on Tuesday, July 23, 2019. A forest fire outside Athens is threatening homes on the anniversary of a deadly blaze in the same area that claimed more than 100 lives. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

MATI, Greece (AP) — Residents of a small coastal resort gutted by a deadly wildfire one year ago held a candlelight memorial on the beach late Tuesday in memory of the 102 people killed by the blaze near Athens. Survivors and well-wishers released floating candles into the sea hours after religious services were held at Orthodox Churches across the area.

The fire struck the resort of Mati and other seaside areas east of Athens on July 23, 2018, destroying more than a thousand homes. Some of the people who died were trapped by flames and others drowned in the sea while trying to escape thick smoke.

New Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis attended a memorial service in Mati earlier Tuesday.

“Today is a day of remembrance, one year after a national tragedy,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas said, announcing tax relief measures for some 4,000 people who have so far failed to qualify for the benefit.

As residents of the fire-hit areas held a silent march in Mati Tuesday, fire crews battled a new blaze in the area, burning pine forest outside the port of Rafina.

Three planes and two helicopters dropped water, helping fire crews control the blaze that had threatened homes and forced the closure of a main road for several hours, blocking access to seaside areas popular with swimmers during the summer.

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Follow Giannakouris at https://twitter.com/PGiannakouris

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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