Finger pointing for responsibilities in Greek wildfires takes centre stage
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EKthimerini: As a political debate about who was responsible for last week’s fatal wildfires continued, radio conversations between senior police and traffic police officials obtained by Kathimerini depict their alarm on the night that the blaze raged out of control, confounding the tactics of the authorities.

The order by the police chief for northeastern Attica, Constantinos Voutselas, to Traffic Police chief Argyris Bakalonis, to suspend traffic on Marathonas Avenue came at 6.12 p.m. on July 23, with the latter subsequently ordering diversions. Those decisions led dozens of motorists down toward Mati, and to the fire, which crossed Marathonas Avenue, defying authorities’ expectations. At 6.35 p.m. Bakalonis can be heard asking if a police patrol car is trapped and is reassured that there is not a problem.

Authorities continued to point the finger at each other Wednesday. Attica regional adviser Ioanna Tsoupra blamed the fire service for not properly organizing an evacuation of the stricken areas.

The first legal suit against the Greek authorities over the fires was lodged Wednesday by relatives of the victims who lost their lives in Neos Voutzas, northeastern Attica. The suit was brought against Secretary General of Civil Protection Yiannis Kapakis, Attica Regional Governor Rena Dourou, Marathon Mayor Ilias Psinakis, as well as lower-ranking regional and local authority officials and officers of the fire service and police.

President Prokopis Pavlopoulos inspected the sites of the worst fires Wednesday in a visit that was not announced by his office.

Meanwhile, a legislative amendment submitted to Parliament stipulated the financial relief that will go toward victims of the wildfires. The amendment foresees a sum of 5,900 euros going toward repairs to each damaged home and 4,400 euros for permanent physical injury. The relief concerns both primary residences and summer homes, with a sum of 600 euros going to each disabled beneficiary or those with large families.

Also Wednesday, conservative New Democracy called on Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis to broaden an investigation into the failings that led to the fires, as party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said it would be his priority to improve the country’s firefighting capacities so that such a national tragedy is “never repeated.”

 

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