Greek fires a tragedy, but not a suprise

Homes built haphazardly among the pines, no evacuation plan, poorly organised emergency services hit hard by austerity: the deadly wildfires around Athens this week may have shocked Greece but few environment experts are surprised.

At least 79 people perished in the infernos that broke out on Monday evening, and questions are being asked of the government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras over how it could let the tragedy occur.

For forestry expert Nikos Bokaris, the region of Mati on Greece's Attic coast where one of the blazes began had all the ingredients for a disaster of this scale.

He said the congested nature of buildings set among pine trees, along with poor access to some properties, made a devastating forest  nearly inevitable.

"The pines were old, very tall and wide, all the necessary fuel for the flames to swell and spread. That creates a huge thermal mass," Bokaris told AFP.

Greece has been experiencing a hot summer, and wind gusts of up to 100 kilometres-per-hour helped the fire swarm through the bone-dry forest at devastating speed.

Tsipras said the  had worsened the blaze, something which geographer and natural disaster expert Kostis Kalambokidis tentatively agreed with.

"We know full well that climate change is creating more and more ," he said.

But weather, it bears pointing out, can be forecast.