As deadly wildfires raged on July 23, the worst in the seaside village of Mati north of Athens, with the death toll hitting at least 91, Greece’s fire and police forces weren’t communicating with each other as there was no disaster or evacuation plan and reports showed near chaos among civil protection agencies.
After earlier reports of other breakdowns in the firefighting strategy, including a helicopter running out of fuel and losing communication with ground forces, Kathimerini said it had seen official documents indicating that multiple calls from Attica Police headquarters to the headquarters of the fire service in Halandri went unanswered, after firefighters also said there were no senior offices on the ground as they battled blazes.
The claims are in writing and are to go to Athens prosecutor Ilias Zagoraios, who is overseeing an investigation into who or what should be held accountable for the fires, the paper said, with the only call from the fire service to police recorded that night being an emergency 100 plea from a firefighter desperately seeking help to rescue people trapped in a burning house in Neos Voutzas.
There was no indication what the response to the call was.
After initially refusing to take any blame, Prime Minister and his Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition fired the police and fire chiefs and accepted the resignations of two top officials, including Citizens Protection Minister Nikos Toskas, who had said there were “no operational failures,” despite evidence of a debacle.
The major rival New Democracy didn’t accept Tsipras’ response and reshuffling of officials. “Mr Tsipras is playing musical chairs in a bid to save himself,” the Conservatives spokeswoman Maria Spyraki said.
“However many times he might change the roles of his associates, the responsibility for the situation in this country is his,” she remarked.
Alternate Minister for Agriculture Yiannis Tsironis said the peope who were forced out or quit weren’t guilty of anything, continuing to defend what critics said was a shameful attempt to cover up failures.
“Responsible people who resign are one thing, and culpable people are another,” Tsironis said.
“It doesn’t mean that those who did their job and resigned are culpable,” he added.
There’s still no word on the cause – nor have the names of almost none of the victims been released – but Tsironis said the fires were caused by global warming and said he felt responsible
“because we cannot explain to our people what climate change will bring.”
Attica Governor Rena Dourou, accused of incompetency, has refused to hold a meeting to discuss her role during the blaze at Mati.
The Presidents of Greece’s bar associations called for a judicial investigation into the fires, espeically at Mati and said, “The country cannot be drowned or burned constantly, with errors and deficiencies to be covered up over years.”