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Society

Overwhelmed Greece Fears More Wildfires Coming, Girds for Worst

ATHENS – Even deploying every firefighter and piece of equipment on hand wasn't enough as Greek teams tried to deal with hundreds of blazes across the country amid worries that more are coming.

The fires were still going on in some places after a week as crews moved around to the places worst hit, the New Democracy government under fire itself with complaints of a scatter shot approach to combating the blazes.

Government officials said the country's forest were at risk of erupting anywhere at any moment because of a brutal heat wave that has created powder keg conditions, made worse by a failure to clear brush and people dumping debris.

The country's firefighting mechanism can't cope, said Kathimerini in a report about the scale of the disaster and with worry there will be a repeat in August, with government financial support also burdened after subsidies during COVID-19 lockdowns.

Even boosting the arsenal of firefighting equipment in the wake of the then-ruling Radical Left SYRIZA's failed response to July 23, 2018 wildfires that killed 102 people hasn't been enough. 

This time Greece needed aid from 22 countries, the European Union not providing any as it was also trying to deal with fires in other countries and having given the government 32 billion euros ($37.62 billion) in COVID aid.

The government was criticized for not responding quickly enough as fires north of Athens rekindled after they had been beaten back but firefighters were being spread around the country.

While there was no emergency alert system in place in 2018, with years of delays, this time the 112 communications system sent out warnings on cell phones and there was a disaster plan that led to ferries being sent to the island of Evia to rescue people, which didn't happen at Mati.

Aides said the government plan worked, the report added, and that 31 water-dropping aircraft were leased at a cost of 49,149,200 euros ($57.785 million) – without including the cost of deployment, equivalent to that.

In 2020 a total of 21 aircraft were leased at a price, without flight costs, amounting to 31,565,000 euros ($37.110 million).

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