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Tsipras’ words mean little to fire-stricken Greeks standing on ashes, says …

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras faced mounting criticism on Saturday after wildfires that killed at least 88 people plunged Greece into grief just as it was healing from years of painful bailouts.

Survivors and political opponents accused Tsipras and his government of insensitivity for not apologizing for Greece’s deadliest blaze in memory and for failing to prevent the tragedy.

He cut short a visit to Bosnia on Monday night, rushing home hours after the killer blaze broke out near Athens. But falling off the radar for three days after that has infuriated some people.

“How does he plan to redeem this political responsibility? What does political responsibility mean?” a 79-year-old man standing in front of his burnt home told Skai TV.

Venting anger, survivors and political opponents want to see officials resign over the failure to prevent the disaster amid questions on why an evacuation did not take place.

Tsipras appeared on TV screens on Friday to chair a cabinet meeting after an official three days of mourning ended. Aides said he had been busy coordinating the disaster response.

He said he took “full political responsibility” for the disaster. But for those who survived the inferno, the words meant little.

“Words are nice … but I want him to tell me and the people who perished, our friends … whose fault it is, if not his. I’ve reached my limits.”

BURNING QUESTIONS

The wildfire in Mati laid bare decades of ills of the Greek state – unlicensed building dotting the Greek landscape, tolerated by the state as governments turn a blind eye to non-compliance and eventually legalize built homes to win votes.

On Monday night, five hours after the fire had started, state TV showed Tsipras rushing from the airport to an operations center in Athens, asking ministers in a live broadcast what happened and how many personnel had been deployed to put out the flames.

He did not ask nor was he told anything about fatalities in Mati, the small seaside town where dozens were trapped by advancing flames and died. At least not on camera.

TSIPRAS HOLED UP

After announcing three days of mourning later that day, the leftist Tsipras was invisible until Friday. He is not known to have visited any of the survivors in hospital.

“He was in his office, chairing meeting after meeting, with the citizen protection minister, the interior minister, the mayors; he was busy coordinating the operation,” one government official said.

Despite announcing a long list of relief measures, Tsipras was accused by the opposition of burying his head in the sand. He rejected the accusations during the cabinet meeting.

The prime minister is more focused on the “communications aspect” of the crisis than “what really matters,” Christides said, arguing the government should prioritize the plight of those affected.

Tsipras’ coalition partner, Defence Minister Panos Kammenos, visited Mati to face the anger of survivors. “You left us at God’s mercy!” a tearful woman shouted at Kammenos, who also got into a heated debate with a survivor on whether help was sent in a timely manner.

Tsipras has promised closure, saying the government will look into what went wrong and fix past failings to avoid a repeat tragedy. Whether the Mati disaster will damage his popularity further remains to be seen and will be decided by his actions, analysts said. (full article reuters)

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5 comments

  1. People saying this about the present government, Tsipras in particular, are blind to see that all governments, past and present are responsible but the local councils are responsible mostly for being in the areas and seeing the problems first hand and not doing anything. Lack of forestry management, no organisation by planning permission, wild rubbish dumping are among many contributing factors. The biggest problem though lies with the Greek “mentality” of not wanting to take care of things themselves. Complain to the local councils if they see illegal rubbish, illegal buildings, uncut brush wood and long grass. No they prefer to sit back with their frappe and think that just because they have paid taxes that the fire-brigade erc is going to save then if there is a fire or other “natural catastrophe”.
    Risk assessment – Risk Management – Risk Mitigation are all words not heard of in Greece.
    Organisation is another………

  2. Two easy suggestions for the future. A simple Emergency Broadcast system. Whenever a CRISIS level event, Serious fire, floods etc, a system wide SMS/Text Message could be sent through all mobile carriers across Greece, and broadcast on TV screens. Many would get the message and possibly alert others. SECOND, possibly is the time to tear down illegal homes, UNLESS the owner of these illegal homes agree to create the infrastructure to ensure that their illegal homes meed the new codes for safe egress from fire zones, zoning laws etc. If you are willing to pay the city to make your home up to code OK, if not, tear it down. And finally, maybe this year with all the burned out forests along the MARATHON RACE, maybe this year we hand out antidepressants to the runners instead of gels and isotonic drinks. Or better yet, seeds to plant a nice new tree.

  3. havent people figured out yet that forests burn in greece to clear land for construction which would have otherwise been illegal? every man on the street knows this, but strangely no politician (of any administration), prosecutor, or judge seems to understand this..

    • keeptalkinggreece

      there have been some legislation changes about construction in burned down forests in recent times.

  4. John, the SMS system is online and working in Greece. No one made a decision to inform the people and evacuate them in a timely manner…. still, if the death toll is what they say it is it’s quite low considering the devastation the fire caused