Europe

Angry Greeks criticize government response after wildfire devastation

Inside a burnt house can be seen after a wildfire on the outskirts of Varympompi in Athens on Monday. [Reuters]

He ignored the evacuation order and took his own hands as the fire threatened to swallow Stelios Cokinellis’s house in the northern suburbs of Athens over the weekend and the paramedics could not respond to his call for help. I decided to leave it to.

“I hid so they couldn’t find me. I moved to the other side of the house and started fighting the fire with my water. Otherwise the fire would have been extinguished. “The 82-year-old, who built a three-story house in the woodlands of Varympompi, said. Returned to South Africa 25 years later.

Her daughter, Eirini, was weeping when she talked about what happened to her father and how she and her family escaped without knowing if the house they shared with him would be destroyed.

“If my dad hadn’t stayed, our house would have been burned down,” she said. “There was no fire station anywhere. Fortunately there were volunteers,” she said. “I feel angry, nothing else.”

A photo shared on social media of a tired firefighter sleeping on the ground, wearing a smoke-stained uniform he wore to fight the flames, showed the tension the paramedics were experiencing. ..

Approximately 1,000 firefighters, nine aircraft and 200 vehicles were sent to Greece from other European countries to help fight catastrophic wildfires near Athens and elsewhere.

However, when reinforcements arrived, some Greeks asked why the local fire department needed help.

Television reports and social media feature angry commentary on the inability of firefighters to stand up to the flames and pointed out observations about a disproportionate number of police officers.

“Thanks to all the countries for their firefighting support,” said a Twitter commenter. “If you need a police officer, please let us know.”

Dimitris Statopros, head of the Greek Fire Federation, said Greek fire services have been severely weakened after a decade of austerity that affected public services. He said he needed to hire 5,000 firefighters right away.

“We are always vigilant,” said Stathopoulos. “March was flooded for 10 days and then snowed. In Varympompi and Evia, we will be there for 20 days with 500 firefighters because of the dangerous times.”

He added that the temperature was so high in the early stages of the Varympompi fire last week that the water dropped by the fire extinguishing aircraft evaporated before it reached the flames.

Prime Minister Kiriacos Mitsutakis said last week that there would be a period of “criticism and self-criticism” about how authorities would respond to the fire. This is consistent with a series of extreme weather events around the world.

The UN panel on climate change warned on Monday that the world is dangerously approaching global warming.

In June, the Ministry of Civil Protection announced a € 1.7 billion fire protection plan. This includes the replacement of aging Canadian firefighting aircraft and the hiring of fire brigades, primarily funded by the European Investment Bank and the European Union.

On Saturday, senior government official Akis Skertsos posted figures showing that Greece is far ahead of other Mediterranean nations in terms of the number of water bombers, in response to criticism that the government is not doing enough.

He said spending on civil protection measures has increased by 56% over the past three years, and the number of permanent and seasonal firefighters has increased by 16% to 14,736. Greece has 74 firefighting aircraft, compared to 51 in 2018.

Wildfires have so far not caused as many casualties as the flames three years ago, which killed more than 100 people, destroying public confidence in the left-wing Siriza administration, which was defeated in subsequent elections.

Opposition criticism has been modest, but public anger may continue long after the flames are extinguished.

“The government should resign as soon as possible. 77-year-old Makis Radgiannakis, who lives in Pefki, northern Euboea, said the ferry was waiting for more people to evacuate to the sea.

“Everyone is desperate. Everyone is disappointed.” [Reuters]

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