ATHENS – Reacting after the fires that killed at least 89 people, Greece’s ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition had a fence blocking public access to a beach in Halkidiki knocked down and it would start demolishing unlawfully-erected buildings too.
That came after the government, which includes the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) was accused of allowing even more illegal construction, a major factor in the scores of deaths from a July 23 fire which roared through the seaside village of Mati.
After a meeting between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Environment Minister Giorgos Stathakis it was announced that regional authorities will demolish 61 illegal structures, including 27 illegal properties in Mandra, an industrial town west of Athens which was hit by deadly flash floods last November), 21 fences blocking beach access in the areas of Saronikos, Anavyssos and Porto Rafti in eastern Attica, and 13 illegal homes in areas that have been earmarked for reforestation in Kapandriti, Lavrio and Pendeli.
A number of Greek environmental organizations including Greenpeace and WWF expressed their reservations about the government’s motives behind the campaign, saying it was too little too late and should have been before the disaster to prevent the loss of life.
Successive governments have typically allowed unlawful construction, including on burned lands critics said were set on fire to clear the way for profitable homes even at the cost of the loss of scores of lives in the past.
No cause has been determined for the Mati fire and several others that hit around seaside areas outside Athens with arson blamed as well as the fire department saying someone they would not identify was burning materials on Mt. Penteli before the blaze got away.