ATHENS – As mourners gathered to bury the dead among at least 91 victims of the Greek wildfires that swept through seaside villages and wiped out the town of Mati northeast of the Capital, survivors and others were still looking for answers as to why the government didn’t have a plan to alert or save them.
Hundreds came to Mati for a Sunday morning July 29 servicewhere they wept and lit candles in memory of those killed when the fire roared through he popular resort near Athens on July 23 said Reuters, as Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras was being assauled for what critics said were fundamental failures to have a disaster and evacuation plan in place.
Citizens Protection Minister Nikos Toskas continued to insist there were no operational failures despite evidence the government was nearly chaotic in its response and have multiple agencies not working with each other.
“Some people survived but for those who died I wish they are well in heaven,” said 77-year old Theano Tsikoulou. “Fires were burning everywhere, my husband and I were going and putting them out so that our house would not be burnt,” she told the news agency.
A total of 25 people remain missing while 59 bodies have been identified and a further 28 are still to be named, the fire brigade said. Another four people died in hospitals.
Tsipras took blame for the disaster and pledged a series of changes, including on illegal and haphazard construction which is thought to have worsened the blaze, similar to the problem that created deadly floods in the town of Mandra west of Athens in November, 2017 where he made similar promises that were never carried out.
The major rival New Democracy, with big leads in polls, said the government should coordinate its act and give an accurate number of the missing while criticizing Tsipras’ TV appearance the night of the fires as a “sorry show,” and continued to assail him.
While the government had no disaster preparedness plan, a children’s camp near the sites of the blaze did and quickly evacuated buildings housing 620 youngsters. While crews continued to go from burned house-to-burned house in Mati, the children’s camp reopened near the blackened forest and earth along the seaside.
Athens Mayor George Kaminis invited the children back. “The smiles should return,” he wrote wrote on Twitter.