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In Fire-Ravaged Mati, Mitsotakis Says He’ll Listen to the People

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Photo by EUROKINISSI/Thanasis Dimopoulos.

ATHENS - Trying to dispel any notion that he’s an elitist - as former Premier Alexis Tsipras tried to characterize him - Prime Minister and New Democracy chief Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he’ll take his office to Greek citizens, hear their needs and respond.

It started with his visit to the seaside village of Mati northeast of Greece’s capital, nearly consumed by July 23, 2018 wildfires that killed 102 people, many of them there, and said he would do what Tsipras promised but failed, to rebuild it.

“It is my personal commitment, and that of the government, to make Mati much better than it used to be and for it to thrive in a different, more sustainable way. And I think that’s the best way, after all, to finally heal the wounds caused by last year’s fire,” he said, Kathimerini reported on his visit there.

Tsipras had been blamed in a documentary on SKAI TV of trying to hide and downplay the death toll as the blaze roared over the countryside and as independent reports said his government’s response was confused, chaotic and led to more casualties.

Suggesting a new relationship between the state and citizens, Mitsotakis insisted that, despite its shortcomings, the “state can and will respond to the expectations of Greek citizens,” reported Kathimerini.

Mitsotakis also visited the plot which was recently cleared of 20,000 tons of charred tree trunks and branches, the detritus from the conflagration that roared through the village like a runaway freight train so fast that one resident said, “The sky was on fire.”

It sat there until Mitsotakis was elected and went to order an immediate cleanup, 20 days after he won July 7 snap elections and ousted Tsipras. “Turns out it was easy and simple to clear up this ticking bomb of a plot, but somebody had to do it,” Mitsotakis said in a shot at Tsipras and SYRIZA policies.

The initiative reportedly saved the Greek state a million euros and, according to Mitsotakis, showed there will be return to normality and as  government spokesman Stelios Petsas announced measures to help Mati residents including suspending property auctions and foreclosures until July 31, 2010 instead of the end of September as first scheduled.

There will also be an extension of a deadline for mortgage assistance which had already expired but has been pushed back to the end of the year now.