Greece to start burying wildfire victims, government facing criticism

ATHENS, July 28 (Reuters) - Greece will this weekend begin burying the victims of a devastating wildfire near Athens which killed at least 88 people and has prompted criticism of the government's handling of the disaster.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday took political responsibility for the tragedy as opposition leaders said the government had failed to adequately safeguard lives.

On Sunday, three members of the same family are due to be laid to rest in the first known funeral since the blaze broke out last Monday in the seaside village of Mati, 30 km (17 miles) east of Athens.

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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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"We will say our final goodbye to our much-loved Grigoris, Evita and Andreas ... tragic victims in Mati," the Fytrou family said in a statement published by the Athens news agency, asking media not to attend.

The search for the missing continues and many people remain in hospital, while the names of more victims have emerged.

Twin nine-year old girls Sofia and Vasiliki Filippopoulou, whose pictures have featured internationally, were confirmed dead, state broadcaster ERT reported on Saturday.

DNA tests showed the girls and their grandparents died in the blaze at Mati.

Their grandfather's burnt-out car was located outside a plot of land where 26 people died, with some of the victims found embracing each other in death, ERT said.

Heavy downpours hit the region on Saturday, prompting fears that the work of rescue crews and efforts by locals to salvage what they can from the fire could be made more difficult.

The government has announced a long list of relief measures and promised to tackle decades-old problems, including haphazard and unlicensed residential building, to minimize the risk of a repeat disaster and to cool public anger.

A deputy mayor in Marathon, which administers some of the affected area, on Saturday became the first official to resign over the wildfire.

(Editing by Andrew Bolton)

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