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Society

SYRIZA Governor Charged for Deadly Greek Fires, Floods Too

March 23, 2019

ATHENS – After being charged for breach of duty among other counts in the deaths of 100 people in July, 23, 2018 wildfires in Greece, Attica Governor Rena Dourou was one of a group of officials blamed for catastrophic 2017 floods in the town of Mandra that killed 25.

A months-long 66-page prosecutor’s investigation into the causes of the floods in the western Attica municipality that also injured 13 and caused huge damage to homes and infrastructure, has pointed to negligence by local and regional authorities, noting that no flood prevention works had been carried out to avert such a disaster, said media reports.

Dourou is one of the most prominent politicians who is a member of the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA and had deflected any blame for anything before the reports over the floods and fires accused her of negligence.

After geological experts had said the floods were preventable if the government hadn’t allowed unlawful construction blocking water run-off the report said Dourou’s office was lax, citing a lack of any registration of illegally built structures and no marking of the area’s creek beds.

The investigation reveals other details over liability assigned to regional and municipal officials, as well as to the state-run forestry bureaus, the same pattern of blame assigned to government authorities over the fires showing no one was in charge, there was chaos and confusion and critics blaming appointments of unqualified political friends to offices.

One of the major charges was that no anti-flooding works were undertaken by the regional government’s services, although similar flooding occurred in 2014-2015 and as the government had promised to rectify the problem of unlawful building.

After the fires, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said more than 1100 unlawful buildings would be razed but there haven’t been any reports that has happened.

Prosecutor Sotiria Papageorgakopoulou brought multiple misdemeanor charges for the floods, including negligible homicide, being filed against nine current office-holders and forestry bureau officials.

Besides Dourou, the list includes Mandra Mayor Ioanna Kriekouki, Elefsina Mayor Giorgos Tsoukalas and Megara Mayor Grigoris Stamoulis. The charges include manslaughter through neglect, grievous bodily harm, provoking floods through neglect, violating construction regulations and breach of duty.

The report said Dourou’s office and other municipal officials failed to conduct any anti-flood works despite technical studies and approved funding to support such a project, with the 2014-15 floods also cited.

It noted the failures to act contributed to the “massive destruction”brought by uncontrolled construction in dried-out river beds, the inadequacy of technical works and the “complete nonexistence” of flood prevention works in mountain areas, the report said.

Particular blame was directed at the Municipality of Mandra, which the report accused of “criminal neglect and violations” including the unlicensed construction of a sports stadium on the bed of the Soures stream.

The charges come as SYRIZA is trying to revise penal codes for more lenient sentences for government officials convicted of embezzlement, the possession of Molotov Cocktails and lesser penalties for state officials found guilty of gross negligence in their response to natural disasters.

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