Europe

Greece wildfires: Emergency chiefs replaced

Firefighters and volunteers try to extinguish a wildfire raging in Verori, near Loutraki city, Peloponnese, southern Greece, 24 July 2018 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Dozens of people were killed in last month's fires

Greece has appointed new heads of key emergency services following last month's deadly wildfires near Athens.

A statement from the prime minister's office on Sunday said that the heads of the police force and fire brigade had been replaced by their deputies.

It comes two days after the resignation of the civil protection minister.

The government has been strongly criticised over its response to the wildfires, which claimed the lives of at least 90 people.

Fanned by strong winds, the flames spread through the Attica Peninsula, with the resort town of Mati among the worst-affected areas.

Eyewitnesses said that hundreds of people were forced into the sea as the fires approached, while others were trapped by the flames.

In one area, the bodies of 26 adults and children who appeared to have died hugging each other were found.

The government has said the fires were started by arsonists and blamed illegal construction for blocking escape routes.

However, a catalogue of errors in the authorities' handing of the fires emerged earlier this week.

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Media captionGreek fires: Survivors confront defence minister over response

According to one senior expert, police set up diversions that sent drivers into the path of the fire, while a separate study found that authorities did not raise an alarm to allow residents and tourists to escape.

The families of a couple in their 70s who were killed in the fires are suing police, fire, civil defence and regional leaders over their deaths.

Nikos Toskas, the minister responsible for both police and fire services, became the first person to leave the government since the fires began when he stepped down from his role on Friday.

But he said that no "grave operational mistakes" had been made by the services.

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