ATHENS – With rival parties tearing into the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA’s reported mismanagement the response to the July 23, 2018 wildfires that killed 102 people, many in the seaside village of Mati, the government said it was the fault of previous administrations.
A widely-watched documentary on SKAI TV – a station on which Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras won’t let anyone in his party be interviewed, claiming it is biased against his agenda – said the government deliberately tried to play down the death toll as the fires raged.
That came after widespread criticism and independent reports commissioned by some families of victims that there was chaos and no real command oversight as the fires roared out of control.
Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos accused major opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis of “digging up” a tragic story for political gain after the Conservatives piled on more criticism.
“It is not to his credit and shows no respect for what happened that night,” Tzanakopoulos said. As for the lack of coordination between state agencies on the fatal night, he blamed it on previous governments, under which the public sector “crumbled.”
Some of the victims families are suing and with Tsipras and his party in free fall in polls with elections coming this year, he’s been trying frantically to regain favor with voters with a series of handouts and promises to undo austerity he imposed.
In a Facebook post, Mitsotakis noted “The indifference for human life and cynicism” of authorities who delayed releasing the real death toll and details to play down the disaster as it was unfolding.
“A lot of work is in store for us if we are to put some order into a demolished state,” he said, referring to general elections later this year which his party is on a path to win relatively easy after Tsipras spent four years reneging on anti-austerity promises.
The centrist Movement for Change (KINAL) said the documentary and fire response showed that Tsipras and his ministerconcealed the size of the death toll in their initial public speeches about the tragedy. “It was not just a show of cynicism and callousness but a conscious attempt to distract and trick citizens,” KINAL said.
The Greek Communist Party cited “criminal responsibilities” to both the current and previous governments, while To Potami leader Stavros Theodorakis said the documentary highlighted the incompetence of those in power and the scourge of state appointments without any merit.