Greek prosecutors charge 20 over deadly wildfire in Mati

FILE PHOTO: Smoke rises in front of burnt houses in the village of Mati, near Athens, Greece, July 28, 2018. REUTERS/Costas Baltas -/File Photo

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek prosecutors charged 20 people, including a regional governor and two local mayors, over a wildfire that killed 100 people in the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas last July, a judicial source said on Tuesday.

Most of the victims couldn’t escape from a maze of poorly planned streets in Greece’s worst wildfire disaster. Authorities were accused of a slow response and lack of coordination in rescue operations.

The charges include involuntary manslaughter and causing bodily harm due to neglect, the source said. Prosecutors have drafted a 292-page report that details “a series of mistakes” in handling the disaster.

The accused include Rena Dourou, the governor of Attica region, which includes Mati; Elias Psinakis, mayor of Marathon; and Evangelos Bournous, mayor of Rafina and Pikermi, all towns in the region. The accused have denied any wrongdoing.

Greece’s judicial system has several preparatory stages and the compilation of charges does not necessarily mean that the individual will face trial. An investigating magistrate is now expected to take over and look into the case.

The government attributed the fire to arson and dismissed accusations that it failed to evacuate people in time, saying that unlicensed building had thrived under previous governments.

Mati, a heavily wooded area on the coast east of Athens overlooking the sea, was popular with pensioners and children at summer camps.

Other prosecutors are also investigating separate cases linked to the Mati fire, following citizen lawsuits.

(Reporting by Constantinos Georgizas, writing by Renee Maltezou, editing by Larry King)

Michigan to charge top medical official in Flint water deaths

A sign is seen next to a water dispenser at North Western High School in Flint, a city struggling with the effects of lead-poisoned drinking water in Michigan, May 4, 2016.

(Reuters) – Michigan’s top medical official will be charged with involuntary manslaughter for her role in the city of Flint’s water crisis, which was linked to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that caused at least 12 deaths, state prosecutors said on Monday.

Dr. Eden Wells, who already faced lesser charges, would become the sixth current or former official to face involuntary manslaughter charges in connection with the crisis.

The state intends to add involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office to the other charges of obstruction of justice and lying to police that Wells already faces, a spokeswoman for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said.

An attorney for Wells, the state’s chief medical executive, could not immediately be reached by Reuters but Jerold Lax, one of her attorneys, told the Detroit Free Press they only learned of the proposed additional charges at a pre-trial hearing on Monday.

The charges stem from more than 80 cases of Legionnaires’ disease that were believed to be linked to the water in Flint after the city switched its source from Lake Huron to the Flint River in April 2014.

Wells was among six current and former Michigan and Flint officials charged in June. The other five, including Michigan Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, were charged at the time with involuntary manslaughter stemming from their roles in handling the crisis.

Involuntary manslaughter is a felony that carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

In court documents, prosecutor had previously said Wells lied to police about when she became aware of the Legionnaires’ outbreak and that she threatened a team of independent researchers who were studying the source of the disease.

Special prosecutor Todd Flood said Monday he was seeking the new charges based on new review of documents and testimony that came out last week, the newspaper said.

The crisis in Flint erupted in 2015 when tests found high amounts of lead in blood samples taken from children in the predominantly black city of about 100,000.

The more corrosive river water caused lead to leach from pipes and into the drinking water. Lead levels in Flint’s drinking water have since fallen below levels considered dangerous by federal regulators, state officials have said.

 

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Bill Trott)