Grim house search yields more bodies in Greek fires, 81 dead


MATI, Greece (AP) — Rescuers intensified a grim house-to-house search today for more casualties from a deadly forest fire outside Athens, as the country's military said it was using footage from U.S. combat drones and surveillance aircraft to try to determine whether arsonists were behind the blaze and stop future attacks.

Joint patrols of the Fire Service, army personnel, and volunteer rescuers discovered more bodies in the gutted homes near the port of Rafina east of Athens, raising the death toll to 81.

Nikos Giannopoulos stood with his wife and two children outside the destroyed home of his 88-year-old mother, waiting for news as rescuers searched each room.

They found her charred body in the bathroom.

Giannopoulos had searched the home earlier but failed to spot his mother's body in the blackened interior.

Her remains were put into a yellow body bad and placed in a wooden coffin, and Giannopoulos vented anger that his mother had not been rescued as Monday's ferocious wildfire raged down from the mountains and tore through vacation homes.

"She died helpless, an 88-year-old woman. I lost my nearby home in the fire, and my mother's was burned too," he said, his voice cracking with emotion. "So many people died that it took the rescuers three days to find her."

The fire forced hundreds to sprint to sea for safety, swimming out into the rough waters to avoid the suffocating smoke until they were picked up by boats after nightfall. Divers and coast guard patrols were still searching Wednesday for bodies at sea.

The mayor of the fire-ravaged Marathon area, Ilias Psinakis, said many residents only had a few minutes to save themselves.

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