Authorities say Greek wildfires that killed 83 people may have been caused by arson

  • Wildfires that ravaged several seaside towns in Greece are suspected to have been caused by arson. 
  • Climate change likely also contributed to severe weather conditions which exacerbated flames.
  • 83 people have died in fires that engulfed popular summer resort spots near Athens, and dozens more remain in hospital.


Wildfires that ravaged several seaside towns in Greece and left 83 people dead are suspected to have been caused by arson. 

Nikos Toskas, deputy minister for citizen protection, said in a press conference Thursday that the nature of the fires indicated deliberate human action. 

"We have serious indications of criminal acts... lots of fires appeared in a very short period of time," he said.

The BBC reports that 83 people have died in wildfires that engulfed popular summer resort spots near Athens, and some 60 people remain in hospital for injuries sustained in the blazes.

Greece’s deadly forest fire:

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Greece's deadly forest fire
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Greece's deadly forest fire
Firefighters, soldiers and local residents carry a hose as a wildfire burns in the town of Rafina, near Athens, Greece, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Costas Baltas
Firefighters, soldiers and local residents carry a hose as a wildfire burns in the town of Rafina, near Athens, Greece, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Costas Baltas
A firefighter holds a hose as a wildfire burns at the village of Mati, near Athens, Greece, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
Locals try to extinguish a fire at a nearby house as a wildfire burns at the village of Mati, near Athens, Greece, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
Firefighters are seen outside a house as a wildfire burns at the village of Mati, near Athens, Greece, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
A wildfire rages in the town of Rafina, near Athens, Greece, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
Rescuers and volunteers push an inflatable boat as locals are evacuated during a wildfire at the village of Mati, near Athens, Greece, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
A house burns as a wildfire rages at the village of Mati, near Athens, Greece, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
Police officers direct traffic as a wildfire burns in Kineta, near Athens, Greece, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
Smoke blankets a highway as a wildfire burns in Kineta, near Athens, Greece, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
ATHENS, GREECE - JULY 23: A firefighter tries to extinguish the fire that broke out in Rafina area, northeast of Athens in Greece on July 23, 2018. (Photo by Ayhan Mehmet/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A house is threatened by a huge blaze during a wildfire in Kineta, near Athens, on July 23, 2018. - More than 300 firefighters, five aircraft and two helicopters have been mobilised to tackle the 'extremely difficult' situation due to strong gusts of wind, Athens fire chief Achille Tzouvaras said. (Photo by VALERIE GACHE / AFP) (Photo credit should read VALERIE GACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
Flames rise as a wildfire burns in the town of Rafina, near Athens, on July 23, 2018. (Photo by ANGELOS TZORTZINIS / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - 2018/07/23: Flames seen coming out of a building during a major fire. A major fire broke in the Penteli area northeast of Athens. Local authorities said they were evacuating childrens summer camps, while dozens of homes and cars were reportedly destroyed. At least three aircraft and a helicopter were battling the flames, along with at least 50 firefighters, the fire department said. (Photo by Giorgos Zachos/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - 2018/07/23: A firefighter seen trying to put out the fire. A major fire broke in the Penteli area northeast of Athens. Local authorities said they were evacuating childrens summer camps, while dozens of homes and cars were reportedly destroyed. At least three aircraft and a helicopter were battling the flames, along with at least 50 firefighters, the fire department said. (Photo by Giorgos Zachos/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - 2018/07/23: A firefighter seen trying to extinguish a fire coming from a building. A major fire broke in the Penteli area northeast of Athens. Local authorities said they were evacuating childrens summer camps, while dozens of homes and cars were reportedly destroyed. At least three aircraft and a helicopter were battling the flames, along with at least 50 firefighters, the fire department said. (Photo by Giorgos Zachos/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A firefighter tries to extinguish hotspots during a wildfire in Kineta, near Athens, on July 23, 2018. - More than 300 firefighters, five aircraft and two helicopters have been mobilised to tackle the 'extremely difficult' situation due to strong gusts of wind, Athens fire chief Achille Tzouvaras said. (Photo by VALERIE GACHE / AFP) (Photo credit should read VALERIE GACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - JULY 23: An inside view of a damaged house after a fire broke out in Rafina area, northeast of Athens in Greece on July 23, 2018. (Photo by Ayhan Mehmet/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A firefighter reacts as a house burns during a wildfire in Kineta, near Athens, on July 23, 2018. - More than 300 firefighters, five aircraft and two helicopters have been mobilised to tackle the 'extremely difficult' situation due to strong gusts of wind, Athens fire chief Achille Tzouvaras said. (Photo by VALERIE GACHE / AFP) (Photo credit should read VALERIE GACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescuers arrive at the area where bodies were found following a wildfire at the village of Mati, near Athens, Greece, July 24, 2018. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
A woman reacts as she tries to find her dog, following a wildfire at the village of Mati, near Athens, Greece July 24, 2018. REUTERS/Costas Baltas
A woman reacts as she tries to find her dog, following a wildfire at the village of Mati, near Athens, Greece July 24, 2018. REUTERS/Costas Baltas
A house burns following a wildfire at Neos Voutzas, near Athens, Greece, July 24, 2018. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
ATHENS, GREECE - 2018/07/23: A plane seen taking part in the firefighting mission. A major fire broke in the Penteli area northeast of Athens. Local authorities said they were evacuating childrens summer camps, while dozens of homes and cars were reportedly destroyed. At least three aircraft and a helicopter were battling the flames, along with at least 50 firefighters, the fire department said. (Photo by Giorgos Zachos/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / People watch a wildfire in the town of Rafina, near Athens, on July 23, 2018. - At least 20 people have died and more have been injured as wild fires tore through woodland and villages around Athens on Monday, while blazes caused widespread damage in Sweden and other northern European nations. More than 300 firefighters, five aircraft and two helicopters have been mobilised to tackle the 'extremely difficult' situation due to strong gusts of wind, Athens fire chief Achille Tzouvaras said. (Photo by ANGELOS TZORTZINIS / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - 2018/07/23: A helicopter seen taking part in the firefighting mission. A major fire broke in the Penteli area northeast of Athens. Local authorities said they were evacuating childrens summer camps, while dozens of homes and cars were reportedly destroyed. At least three aircraft and a helicopter were battling the flames, along with at least 50 firefighters, the fire department said. (Photo by Giorgos Zachos/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A woman tries to find her papers inside her car following a wildfire at the village of Mati, near Athens, on July 24, 2018. - Fifty people have died and 170 have been injured in wildfires ravaging woodland and villages in the Athens region, as Greek authorities rush to evacuate residents and tourists stranded on beaches along the coast on July 24, 2018. The death toll soared with a Red Cross official reporting the discovery of 26 bodies in the courtyard of a villa at the seaside resort of Mati. (Photo by ANGELOS TZORTZINIS / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
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Hundreds of residents ran to the sea to escape the fires, which gutted houses and cars in its path. Dozens of people are still missing, BBC added. 

Toskas said satellite image analysis and investigations on the ground may suggest foul play. He also referred to a "suspicious find" in Mati, one of the seaside communities in east Attica hit by fires.

But arson was not the only factor at play.

Earlier Thursday, Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos told the BBC that illegal buildings constructed by residents between wooded areas blocked escape routes and worsened one of the country's worst wildfire disasters in history.

Toskas also said that "climate conditions" in the badly scorched surrounding areas were "extreme due to climate change." 

Across Europe, blisteringly hot and dry weather have fanned wildfires burning through the region.

According to a recent report from climate experts to the European Commission, scientists predict that extreme weather conditions will continue to fuel fires that could easily spread through Europe, particularly in the Mediterranean as the region dries up.

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