ATHENS – Facing a series of charges of alleged mismanagement in her response to July 23, 2018 fires that killed 102 and nearly wiped out the seaside town of Mati, former Attica regional governor Rena Dourou has been given more time to prepare a defense.
The former official for the then-ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, which was accused of a chaotic mishandling of the fire response that boosted the death toll also reportedly tried to cover it up, including to protect her from charges.
She appeared before an Athens prosecutor July 28 and her case was pushed back to Sept. 23 with no word why as it's been more than two years since the fires, in which investigators said her office committed grave mistakes and criminal negligence.
In a statement released to the media, Dourou accused her political opponents of exploiting the tragedy for political gain, the New Democracy Conservatives having ousted SYRIZA in July 23, 2019 snap elections a year after the fires.
In November, 2018, Dourou, widely criticized for her response to the wildfires, said she was blameless.
In a written statement to prosecutors investigating the conflagration and why the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition didn't have evacuation orders or a disaster response plan, Dourou said while the area was under her jurisdiction that she's not responsible for the chaotic response or the loss of life.
The regional authority, she said in her statement, is not responsible for “putting out fires or carrying out evacuations without the recommendation of the Fire Service,” without saying what her responsibility is then.
In what was said to be a lengthy statement given to investigators by her lawyer, she said that firefighting is not under local government but that her office is only to provide logistical support if asked for it.
A number of lawsuits were brought by the relatives of those who died and who are charging negligence as the government didn’t have a disaster or evacuation plan and didn’t alert people in Mati to flee as the flames roared down a hill toward them. Officials could face charges including manslaughter, arson and exposure to danger, said the paper.
Dourou was one of a group of officials blamed for catastrophic 2017 floods in the town of Mandra that killed 25.
A months-long 66-page prosecutor’s investigation into the causes of the floods in the western Attica municipality that also injured 13 and caused huge damage to homes and infrastructure, has pointed to negligence by local and regional authorities, noting that no flood prevention works had been carried out to avert such a disaster, said media reports.