A fire broke out at the Athenaeum Palace Hotel in the Greek capital on Thursday, with firefighters using ladders to help evacuate the building. At least three people were injured, authorities said.
The fire department said it had deployed 35 firefighters with 12 vehicles, who managed to bring the fire under partial control shortly after it broke out.
The cause of the Thursday afternoon blaze might be attributed to arson, Fire Brigade investigators reported on Thursday evening.
Two plastic containers with a flammable liquid were recovered intact in the second-floor corridor and another on the first floor, where the fire is thought to have started.
Investigators said this evidence suggests that someone intended to start the fire and help it spread fast across the entire building.
Firefighters evacuated 20 people from the burning hotel on Syngrou Avenue, in Athens' Neos Kosmos district, on Thursday afternoon. Of these, three had to be rushed to the hospital with serious respiratory issues caused by smoke inhalation.
Others came out of side entrances, some covered with blankets, and were being checked by paramedics in ambulances waiting nearby. Fire crews were going room-to-room inside the hotel to ensure nobody remained inside.
The three taken to the hospital included two women and one man, who had broken his leg in the panic that ensued after the fire broke out. Meanwhile, one of the two women is on life support in the intensive care unit and is thought to be in critical condition.
According to the inspectors, the fire appears to have started in the corridor of the first floor, possibly outside the room that was damaged.