After Wildfires Response Debacle, Tsipras Revamping Greece’s Civil Protection Force

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras visits the fire-ravaged seaside village of Mati, July 30, 2018. (Photo by PM's Press Office via Eurokinissi)

ATHENS – With criticism, and evidence, that his government had no evacuation or disaster plans and badly fumbled the response to July 23 wildfires that killed 92 people, Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said he will totally overhaul the civil protection service.

The scheme was set to be unveiled on Aug. 9 with his administration backpedaling but still refusing to take any blame for how it reacted to the inferno that swept through the seaside village of Mati, amid reports the police and fire departments didn’t communicate with each other, a surveillance helicopter ran out of fuel and police directed traffic into the fire area.

He had already sacked the fire and police chiefs and accepted the resignations of Citizens Protection Minister Nikos Toskas and the civil protection chief and replaced the Alternate Minister for Civil Protection and said his government would now finally move to demolish unlawful buildings, one of the reasons why people were trapped in Mati and couldn’t get out via vehicle or reach the sea.

The overhaul will also include a plan to have agencies coordinating responses to disasters instead of working at cross-purposes without communicating with each other, Kathimerini said it was told by officials it didn’t identify.

There’s also expected to be an evacuation plan, the responsibility going to the new head of the civil protection service, Yiannis Tafyllis.

Despite widespread criticism the government had been callous and almost cruel in defending its position – Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, head of the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) who are junior partners in the coalition headed by SYRIZA, blamed the residents of Mati for building unlicensed homes – Alternate Defense Minister Fotis Kouvelis said the tragedy shouldn’t detract attention from three international bailouts of 326 billion euros ($377.66 billion) expiring on Aug. 20.

He lashed out at New Democracy saying the Conservatives “never felt the need to explain why anarchy and client-patron relations dominated for so many years,” talking about the economy instead of the loss of life.