ATHENS – Returning to fire-stricken Mati exactly one month after the blazing inferno swept through the seaside town in Attica, an ANA television crew and reporter were able to record the full extent of the damage inflicted by the disaster on July 23.
Driving up Marathonos Avenue, burnt stumps of trees are all that remain of the thick forest of pines that covered the slopes of Neos Voutzas and stretched down to the sea just one month earlier. Crews of wood cutters are at work among the trees, cutting and collecting the burnt tree trunks to use on higher ground, as barriers to prevent soil erosion and flooding when winter rains come.
Staff from the infrastructure ministry and the environment ministry, as well as the Attica regional authority, are on hand to supervise the work and decide what needs to be done.
Yiannis Drivas, from the Attica region solid waste management body EDSNA, explained that tree trunks, branches and debris from burnt houses will be crushed up and reduced to a pulp that will then be spread on the soil on higher ground to act as a soil improver.
Local residents are on standby, watching the work but uncertain whether it is safe to stay in the area.
Talking to ANA, permanent Mati resident Nikos Astithas said he was still waiting for the situation to be fully clarified: “My house was not completely burnt down but has sustained great damage. We do not know whether we can remain in the area and they have not told us what we must do. The problem with asbestos is quite serious, all traces of asbestos must be removed from the area so that we can stay in our homes.”
According to the infrastructure ministry, contracts for the inspection and removal of asbestos have already been drawn up and the process of removing asbestos from buildings tagged for demolition, where the asbestos has been burnt, has already begun. It will continue with the removal of asbestos from less severely damaged buildings where the asbestos is still intact and only needs to be stripped away.
Steps have also been taken to monitor levels of atmospheric pollutants, in collaboration with the Demokritos research centre.
For burnt vehicles, many of which had their licence plates destroyed, the authorities have decided to waive normal procedures and allow owners to register their destruction with just a signed statement so that tax, insurance and other obligations related to the vehicles will cease to apply.