As Fires Rage, Mitsotakis Vows Review, Rolls Out Relief Package

ATHENS – Even as wildfires continued to burn across the country, bringing devastation to Greece's second-largest island, Evia, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said there would be an investigation into the response and that those who lost their homes and properties would be aided.

He outlined the New Democracy government's relief plan at a Cabinet meeting as firefighters, helped by 22 countries sending crews and equipment, were still trying to put down the flames on a number of fronts on Aug. 11.

He said a review of the strategy used in trying to deal with hundreds of blazes simultaneously that overwhelmed the fire brigade would be done but only “after the end of the battle, which at least in Evia is still going on.”

He said there would be immediate compensation and suspension of financial obligations for all fire victims, restoration projects, and medium- and long-term plans to reconstruct the productive foundations of the island’s economy, said Kathimerini.

The state will pay up to 150,000 euros ($175,676) to those who lost their houses and that an application can be filled out online after Aug. 18 on the arogi.gov.gr platform that provides guidelines.

Companies that were affected, he said, “will be compensated for 70 percent of their losses, with 20 percent being given as an advance,” to help them cope for the time being.

Those impacted by the fires will be relieved of paying the ENFIA property tax, as well as social security and tax contributions and there will be rent subsidies while farmers affected will get 4,000 euros ($4685) in assistance.

While past fires have seen developers swoop in to build on the burned land to make a profit, Mitsotakis said his government will prohibit the practice and that the land would be reforested.

He stressed that in order to implement this program of aid and relief for the victims, “a lot of intensive work” must be done. “We are working for the immediate relief of the victims, the restoration of the damaged areas and their protection from floods,” he said, the paper reported.

Major opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, who was premier when July 23, 2018 wildfires northeast of Athens killed 102 people and nearly wiped out the village of Mati – for which his government's failure to respond was blamed – has taken shots at Mitsotakis' administration over these fires.

Tsipras said he had some ideas for relief and Mitsotakis said he agreed with some but that others are already in place. “It goes without saying, then, that the representatives of the opposition are welcome in all these initiatives,” he said.

“After all, yesterday I myself said that the tasks at hand today belong to the elected government, the responsibility for tomorrow belongs to everyone. Therefore, any positive contribution, wherever it comes from, is welcome,” he added, also said the report.


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