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Greece needs new ‘response culture’ to avoid disasters during extreme phenomena

Greece needs a new ‘response culture’ to avoid disasters during extreme weather events  a Greek scientist said with regards to the wildfires in Athens the cost the life of 91 people. “It is certain that in a 30-year cycle, every resident of eastern Attica and his property will come face to face with an extreme phenomenon, such as dangerous fire, at least once,” Thessaly TEI Deputy Rector Professor Michalis Vrachnakis said in an interview with the state news agency amna on Sunday.

“Greece is not the only country unable to deal with extreme weather events and the image of Greece as a disorganised country where an extreme phenomenon will inevitably lead to massive damage and deaths is unfair, ” Vrachnakis added.

“Recently in an organised country such as Japan we had more than 80 dead due to heat strokes, as a result of an extended heat wave. When a weather phenomenon is extreme then incredible reflexes and coordination are required to deal with it,” he pointed out.

Climate change and extreme weather were here to stay, however, and systems dealing with such needed to be revised in order to take this into account, Vrachnakis added, talking about the need for a new “response culture”.

Especially when urban spaces extended into dry, flammable zones of pine and evergreen vegetation, as seen in eastern Attica, the local population had to be trained on how to behave and respond before, during and after a fire, he said. 

“It is certain that in a 30-year cycle, every resident of eastern Attica and his property will come face to face with an extreme phenomenon, such as dangerous fire, at least once. Here we have to realise that climate change is now the rule … The infrastructure that has been created in urban landscapes is not fully compatible with extreme weather phenomena since it was built to deal with mild climate conditions. There is a need for new thoughts about planning and implementation that take climate change, which is now at our door, into account,” he said. amna

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5 comments

  1. michele lavender

    The Greek people must start to work together as a team,organise themselves in their community in times of trouble,they must have practice runs at getting out safely in a fire,earthquake etc..have sirens put up,only through practice runs at emergency procedures can the human not panic if a real situation happens,this is proven with planes,where people had practiced emergency procedures everything went well in a real situation,without panic and keeping calm.

  2. How about not building illegal buildings in the middle of a forested zone for one?
    The government is fully responsible for this fiasco for allowing people to build there in the first place!

    • keeptalkinggreece

      the particular area -Mati -was originally not forest but agricultural area. New residents planted the trees in the 1980’s.

  3. Response is important but prevention is more important and covers a lot of things. In high risk places like Mati, which exist all over Greece, short of razing a village and rebuilding with adequate access roads to main highways and no pine forest or other trees near houses and other buildings, one crucial aspect of prevention includes a total fire ban on hot days with low humidity and high winds.

    90% of fires are caused by humans, either accidentally or by arson. In Greece that means a total fire ban is necessary all summer really. I grew up in Australia where this is standard and it gives you an awareness of fire and respect for is power. You cannot light a campfire or burn off green waste at all on high fire danger days. The alerts are given with the weather report on news bulletins. And since some people flout the law, education is important. If the man who was burning off wood in those very high danger conditions on Monday actually knew the incredible risk he was taking, perhaps he would have thought twice.

    Also, in terms of response, there is very little that people in Greece can do when the dedicated professionals of the Fire Department RECOMMEND evacuation in plenty of time and the relevant authorities – self serving mayors, citizen protection minister and defence minister in this case (the army can order evacuation) all decide to ignore it, despite having ZERO qualifications to do so. The Fire Department recommended evacuation earlier in the day and had already said 4 days prior that Attica was facing very high fire danger. They had also identified Mati as high risk. There WAS time to evacuate before the fire descended from the mountain because 620 children were safely evacuated as we know. It’s not possible for people to organise this, we are talking about thousands of people! There was time to send navy boats and helicopters to evacuate people to avoid a traffic jam and the danger of driving near the fire. Evacuation must be via a safe route and the roads were not safe. Marathonas Avenue was closed because there was fire on both sides of the highway and people would have melted int heir cars. The heat kills people even before the smoke in many cases.

    Evacuation is a serious issue which has to be planned by competent people to work and it must be enacted via d through early warning systems (texts to mobile phones, announcements on all media) Response by those in authority in this case was not only woeful but criminal in my view because incompetent public officials ignored the experts of the Fire Department when they recommended evacuation! (you can just imagine these fools who think they know better than the Fire Department who were okay with such a risk and let their constituents burn to death from their arrogance and ignorance. And now they are busy absolving themselves of responsibility and insulting survivors and the memory of those who perished. Since Greece’s politicians seem to all be of this breed, prevention is even more important and involves all of us. So, as well as proper systems being implemented (early warning systems, evacuation plans activated on time) people need to take responsibility and NOT burn off on hot windy days and children should be educated so the next generation knows better. But still at Mati, the key to the disaster is that the evacuation recommendation was ignored. That has to change.

  4. About Creativity

    Very good, A plan is a start. We have one at our house.