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Mati wildfire report: Cynical 199-operators, complete chaos in Fire Service

The prosecutors’ report on the Mati wildfire on 23. July 2018 highlights the complete lack of organization and operation, and reveals the shocking responses by the Fire Service operators to residents desperately calling for help.

The anguished calls by distressed citizens fearing for their lives were met with the cynicism and rudeness of the fire service operators at emergency number <199.>.

On July 23, there are only three telephone operators who are obviously overwhelmed by the storm of incoming calls.

Operators’ responses to citizens calling for help:

  • “They [fire trucks] are coming, ma’m, they are coming, my a@@, they are coming.”
  • “That’s what I tell you, ma’m, 15-20 trucks are on the way, we wish to give birth to more.”
  • “Fire trucks are not taxis to order one when somebody is in danger.”
  • “What is this in Neos Voutzas? We s@@@. The grandpa will die there. Mal@@@, the grandpa will die.”
  • “Smoke in Attica, smoke … don’t complain and scream all together.”
  • “Let them burn, the cobbles should stay there,” a fire service officer is heard to say about the wildfire in Kineta.

In another call to the Fire Service, a family trapped in Neos Voutzas is seeking for help. The calling woman tells the FS operator that their yard and the car are on fire.

  • Operator: “Can’t you go to the beach slwoly-slowly? Do you have a car?”
  • Woman: “No, what are you talking about? I have a baby 13 months old, how it will breath. Do something.”

Instead of trying to find a way and send help the operator contacts other bureaucratic bodies and they both complain that the woman should have called the …police.

The Fire Service operators advise also other residents in panic to call the police.

Another published dialogue between a Fire Service officer and the officer in charge of <199> reveals that both officers did not know who was operating the areal means.

The dialogues that trigger anger and outrage are part of the prosecutors’ report that pressed charges against 20 officials from local governments, fire service and police for the deadly blaze that took the lives of 100 people.

The prosecutor’s report highlights the total lack of organization, coordination and efficiency.

According to the report, the confusion in the Fire Service was so extreme that even senior officials did not know where the fire was, how far it had spread, who was in charge of the forces on the ground, who was managing aerial operations and if there was a fire in the first place.

The three prosecutors who compiled the report concluded that, even without an evacuation plan, the victims could still have saved themselves if only the civil protection system worked even in the slightest.

“If the civil protection system was slightly functional and an information mechanism was activated to warn civilians of the areas under threat, they would have had time to get away before the fire or smoke got close,” the report said among others.

Still a couple of hours after the wildfire broke out, the main body coordinating the operations was in the dark about the exact location and the extent of the blaze.

The pressed misdemeanor charges are of arson by negligence, negligent manslaughter and grievous bodily harm through negligence. If found guilty in court, offenders face up to 5 years imprisonment.

Survivors of Mati wildfire cannot understand how the death of 100 people can be considered as “misdemeanor.”

“i still have nightmares,” a survivor told media. “I still hear the screams for help, I see the blaze, We still cry for the dead. And all this tragedy is a misdemeanor?”

Unfortunately it’s the Law and nothing but the Law. Felony charges are only for the case where the above mentioned crimes were committed on purpose and not by negligence.

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