ATHENS, Greece – Frantic relatives searching for loved ones missing in Greece's deadliest forest fire in decades headed to Athens' morgue Thursday, as rescue crews and volunteers continued searches on land and at sea for potential further victims of the blaze that killed 81 people.
Those arriving at the morgue were being informed of the necessary steps to match the missing and the dead, including providing DNA samples and dental records.
The fire northeast of Athens in the area of Rafina, a seaside resort of permanent residences and holiday homes popular with Athenians and tourists, broke out Monday and raced through the area, fanned by gale-force winds.
Hundreds fled to nearby beaches, with many swimming out to sea to escape the ferocious flames and choking smoke. Dozens spent hours at sea before being picked up by coast guard vessels, fishing boats and a passing ferry. Several of the dead were people who drowned.
The worse affected area was the seaside community of Mati, where the majority of victims were found, including 26 people found huddled together, many embracing.
Most of the bodies have been burnt beyond recognition, meaning identification was possible only through DNA and dental records.
Maria Saridou arrived at the morgue in the Greek capital accompanied by her son to provide DNA samples. They were looking for Saridou's 55-year-old sister, Eleni, who had gone swimming with a friend of hers in Mati.
"We found her car, it wasn't burnt, nor was the house," said 60-year-old Saridou. "It's just that we can't find her. ... I believe she's alive. Where she went, nobody knows where she went."
The friend her sister had gone swimming with survived with light burns to the foot, Saridou said, but they became separated in the chaos of the fire.
"We just want to find her," said Saridou's 25-year-old son Asot Kostoyan. "Just to find her, nothing else."
Searches continued for more potential victims, with crews going house-to-house in the burnt areas, while coast guard and volunteer divers were searching the waters off the coast of the worst affected areas and a nearby deserted island.