Two Retired Greek Fire, Navy Officials Want Mati Fire Probe Expanded

FILE - Burned houses are seen through a gutted window frame one month after a deadly wildfire tore through holiday homes near Athens, on at the seaside area of Mati, on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS – With little word on any progress into an investigation of the July 23 wildfires that killed 98 people in the seaside village of Mati, two retired officers of the Greek fire service and Navy said the case should be accelerated.

In a letter to new Citizens’ Protection Minister Olga Gerovasili, retired fire Lieutenant Andrianos Gourbatsis said there should be a sworn administrative inquiry into the “oversights and criminal mistakes” of her division.

At the time of the fire, Nikos Toskas, who was then head of the ministry before forced out, said there were “no operational failures,” despite the government not having a disaster or evacuation plan, not giving any warning to residents and with at least two private reports showing chaos and confusion between the responding services.

Gourbatsis said the investigation should be expanded to the fire service, the police, the Attica Regional Authority and all the municipal authorities involved, with reports showing some local and regional officials essentially went into hiding during the blaze.

“Your continued failure to order a sworn inquiry conceals a deliberate cover-up attempt,” said Gourbatsis, who is working as a consultant for two families that suffered losses in the fire, said Kathimerini.

Claiming the “blatant inaction and omissions of the authorities,” ex-naval officer Panagiotis Stamatis meanwhile called on the Council of Appeals Court Judges to assign the probe to a special investigator.

The calls came as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Sept. 4 met with representatives of residents from Mati and again toured the devastated site, with most of the village destroyed by the tsunami of fire.
Tsipras was joined by a handful of ministers and the elected Regional Governor of Attica prefecture, Rena Dourou, from his ruling Radical Left SYRIZA. She had come in for a blitzkrieg of castigation after critics said she was incompetent during the fire.