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Politics

Hardalias: “The Difficult Days Will Not End with the Heatwave”

ATHENS — Greece will remain on high alert for several weeks after the heatwave is over due to the dry conditions this will create, Deputy Minister for Civil Protection and Crises Management Nikos Hardalias said on Monday, in an interview with ERT1 state television.

"The difficult days are not just those of the heatwave. For us the difficult days will begin once the heatwave is over due to the dryness that has been created and all that this means. Therefore, we have several weeks of high alert ahead of us," he said, adding that the situation was being examined and updated in light of the meteorological conditions on a daily basis.

On the concerns about possible problems due to heightened power consumption as a result of the high temperatures, he said that successive meetings are being held with all agencies involved to address this issue and that the system was "in a very high state of readiness", with the entire state mechanism on standby to provide solutions wherever problems arise.

With respect to wildfires, Hardalias said that there had been 116 fires in the last 48 hours, of which the worst was on the island of Rhodes. He said that power was now restored to 99 pct of the island since about 1:30 on Monday and the fire contained to a single point of concern, inside the ravine where it had started.

Regarding fire prevention, he noted that the civil protection agency has for the last two years had powers to intervene and take actions such as creating fire breaks or clearing undergrowth and maintaining access roads for fire brigade vehicles.

Hardalias said the problem in Greece was currently whether the agencies assigned various tasks were actually capable of performing them, adding that this needed to be updated and was one of the priority issues that the prime minister had instructed be examined in September to October this year.

On the prevention and response to forest fires, the minister noted that "we are at the stage of absolute climatic deregulation. We are talking of climate threat." He said the mechanism was ready and, while there was daily self assessment and criticism, the degree of protection in the country was improving at a fast pace, with efforts to increase the means available each year.

"It is not just about prevention. There is capability, response and restoration. These are the four axes on which Civil Protection moves…there is no magic wand to make decades-long problems disappear," he said. Hardalias also noted that the Aegis programme voted for by the KYSEA Council the previous week was the largest investment programme for equipment, means and infrastructure to protect the country against climate change in coming years.

Questioned about the situation with the pandemic, Hardalias said that the state was doing the best possible "but it is also a matter of personal responsibility and social responsibility". He stressed that the epidemiological burden in many areas remains high, while the response to this was vaccination and continuing to observe the protection measures.

"What is important is to increase the rate of vaccination. To increase the wall of immunity and, until the desired target is reached, to continue to observe all the measures," he said. The minister ruled down another general lockdown in the autumn, however, saying that each area was being monitored separately and if measures have to be taken to increase the spread of the virus, such as on the island of Mykonos, then such measures will be taken.

He reported that 10,533,000 vaccinations have been performed in Greece and nearly 55 pct of the population has been fully vaccinated.

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