Letter from Athens: Guilty of Murder-by-Arson – the Greek State

Photo by Eurokinissi.

Largely absent from Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ otherwise appropriately compassionate talk about the victims of the latest allowed arson that killed scores of people in Greece, including tourists he hoped would help bring recovery from an 8-year-long economic crisis, was rage or more than a mere mention of tracking down the killers and the mastermind who had the fire set so that some time from now properties could be built on the land.

Given that this is a particularly pretty part of Greece north of Athens and with coastal land right on the sea, it’s especially appealing, and the people who did this – Citizens Protection Minister Nikos Toskas said all signs pointed to the fires being deliberately set, like the 2007 fires that killed 74 people and led the then New Democracy government to promise to track down the perpetrators before forgetting – won’t be caught.

It’s because burning land in Greece makes a few people very rich and they did start the fires knowing they would get away with it because there’s no law banning building on burned property, one way to take away the incentive for murder condoned by the state which does nothing to stop them.

It was the same with the repeated floods of Mandra west of Athens, another of which in November, 2017 killed 20 people and saw Tsipras’ Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition promise to stop overbuilding, the building of unlawful properties and damming of gullies and streams. Once the hullaballoo was over, so were the promises to help and it happened again.

People who lost everything in 2007 are still waiting for help but Tsipras dragged out the old chestnut that this year’s victims – not the dead who lost everything because arson is allowed and there wasn’t an evacuation plan – will get help from his government on the 12th … of Never.

The signs are that the government had no clue how to handle the disaster-in-waiting despite it having happened before and that the first response to one of the fires, in the beach side area of Kineta on the national road out toward Corinthos was more than an hour, and fleeing people were going in all directions because there was one to coordinate what to do. A Chinese Fire Drill is better than this.

Neither the Civil Protection Agency’s command center nor the municipal authorities in the area had the modern technology for planning the evacuation of densely populated woodland areas, Costas Synolakis, a Professor of Natural Hazards at the Technical University of Crete’s School of Environmental Engineering, wrote in Kathimerini.

If they had, he said, there would have been fewer victims if disaster preparedness plans had been carried out in drills designed to have a centralized response to a wide-ranging catastrophe. If the government couldn’t do that, is there any trust at all? Residents in the areas had no information and were left on their own, which seems to be the plan: God started it, let him figure it out.

In his speech on national TV, Tsipras said that, “Nothing and nobody will be forgotten. Nothing and nobody will be left without help and the assistance of the state. But also, nothing will be left unanswered … there are no words to describe the feelings we are all feeling at these hours.”

In the immediate aftermath, after he said about finding the killers – if arson is determined – Tsipras said only that, “Their time will come and we will look – with respect, I hope, for the dead – at the hows and whys of what happened,” not exactly a stinging indictment of state-aided mass murder.

There wasn’t even the usual claim that no stone won’t be turned over and we will stop at nothing or that, “We will search to the ends of the earth,” for the perpetrators. Just not in Greece though because you might find someone too rich or too close to the thrones of real power where human lives are dispensable if there’s money to be made.

The Mayor of Mandra said the SYRIZA-led coalition reneged on promises to help prevent another disaster with a huge rainstorm hitting the town again on June 26 as bad weather swept across parts of Greece, another one of God’s plans apparently.

Speaking on SKAI TV, Ioanna Kriekouki said the project to protect the seaside town from another catastrophe such as the last one that caused hundreds of thousands of euros worth of damages to homes and businesses, was lost in the country’s notorious bureaucracy and nothing had been done to help despite repeated promises.

“We are talking about nonexistent work that was supposed to be carried out via a non-existent emergency procedure,” she said, ridiculing the government for its broken pledges after geologists said the problem has largely been caused by unlawful building and blocking of natural run-offs that’s being allowed without consequence.

More horror stories will emerge from what was an unspeakable tragedy that never should have happened and even if it was, as one cuckoo Greek cleric put it, an act of God directed at Tsipras for being an atheist, there should have been a plan, one that wasn’t left in the hands of God or politicians or that let wealthy killers, as they have before, send someone into the woods with a match.