ATHENS -Natural disaster expert Costas Synolakis, who was ridiculed by SYRIZA’s Alternate Health Minister Pavlos Polakis for saying residents of Mati, the seaside village where 99 people died in a July 23 wildfire could have been evacuated in time, said he’s mulling bring a suit over the insult.
"Such threats and intimidating behavior are not fitting for a politician," Synolakis told SKAI TV, responding to comments by Polakis on Facebook calling on the professor at the Technical University of Crete to “clean up” a power pole outside his house from vines to avoid being electrocuted “in case of rain or fire,” mocking the dead. Polakis gave an address for Synolakis’ house but there were no reports on whether it was correct.
The study, presented by Synolakis and five other experts, found that the 90 minutes between when the blaze started on Mount Penteli and when it reached Mati on the coast was long enough to evacuate the small town. Instead, in the chaos, drivers were directed into the village and many died, trapped in their cars on narrow, crowded streets as the fire and smoke covered them.’
It was commissioned by the head of opposition New Democracy Kyriakos Mitsotakis, used simulation models developed by Japan’s Waseda University and the University of Oregon to back up its assertions.
Synolakis said authorities had underestimated the force of the initial blaze and the speed at which it was spreading and took too long to divert firefighters at a separate blaze in Kineta, west of Athens, to the Mati area northeast of the Capital.
The ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition, which includes the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) has been criticized for not having an evacuation or disaster plan in place and with independent reports claiming there was chaos in the slow response and that residents were not warned the inferno was roaring toward them.