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Columnists

The Ashes of Mati, Marfin Fires Have Grown Cold

Angeliki Papathanasopoulou, 32 was four months pregnant when she went to work as a financial analyst at a Marfin Bank downtown branch in Athens on May 5, 2010, and she and her husband Christos later that day were scheduled to find out the gender of their unborn child. Who would have been 12 now, but was never born, dying with the mother and two other bank workers,  Epameinondas Tsakalis, 36, and Paraskevi Zoulia, 32, killed by toxic fumes when anarchists during an anti-austerity protest smashed the windows, poured gasoline on the floor, and threw in firebombs.

Photographer Giorgos Moutafis told CNN that he was behind the protesters at the first major demonstration against harsh measures attached to what would turn into three international bailouts of 326 billion euros ($329 billion.)

He said there were about 50 – masked and hooded as that’s the coward’s uniform – who other protesters tried to stop from attacking the bank but only murder was on their mind.

“F**k them, burn it, burn the rich,” the cries continued, oblivious to the fact that there were no rich inside, only customers and workers, but a political statement had to be made even if it meant killing the innocent.

It was a horrible death, photos showing two women on a narrow second-floor balcony gasping for air and another showing one dead, her shoe sticking out as the soot hadn’t settled yet.

The families are waiting for justice that will never come, although the case file was reopened again in 2021 to take advantage of new technology even though it’s incomprehensible to believe anti-terrorism police don’t know who did it.

What the victims got was a plaque – which has been vandalized by the people who ran away – while Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou and other officials paid tribute to them on this year’s anniversary – and that’s all.

Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis said in another social media post that Papathanasopoulou’s child “would have been in middle school, reading and playing. We will not forget them, like we will not forget Epameinondas and Paraskevi. We will not forget any of the victims of Marfin so unjustly lost on that cursed day.”

Nice tribute, but not enough. Someone in authority has to get out there with some street justice and get the anarchists who know who did it to turn them over or turn the anti-terror cops loose to bust up every hideout they have.

IT’S NOT MY FAULT

It’s coming up on four years now on July 23 that the seaside village of Mati, about 24.8 miles northeast of Athens, was nearly burned off the map in disastrous wildfires that day that killed 103 people, most of them there.

The lucky were killed by the smoke of a firestorm so intense the sky was on fire and it looked like night in late afternoon as hurricane-like winds turned the horizon black. The unlucky were burned alive, incinerated.

Many were in cars mistakenly misdirected by police into the narrow streets of a sloping village where unlawful construction blocked access to the sea – which in the smoke couldn’t be seen.

That was their death sentence, including 26 people huddled together on a cliff just over the sea, where 9-year-old twin girls died huddled with their grandparents.

More than 700 people were rescued or evacuated, but survivors waited for hours in the sea for the Navy or the Greek Coast Guard to come rescue them, as Greek ships were too busy hunting for refugees trying to reach islands.

It was mostly left up to fishermen and people in private boats to save them because there was no Dunkirk that year, and it was because then Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras was asleep at the wheel.

There was no disaster plan, the response was shambolic, the fires raged while he fiddled and his staff diddled, some of his government’s officials, along with municipal leaders being prosecuted. But don’t hold your breath waiting for a conviction because the charges will go up in smoke too.

Vacationers have returned to Mati, residents still remembering the Day of the Inferno which turned homes black, burned trees in seconds, and sent the ashes of victims into the sky and the sea.

Tsipras wasn’t prosecuted, taking only “political responsibility,” which means he didn’t want to take any real blame, and not long after the fire he took a vacation on a yacht that should have been used to get to Mati to save people.

There are hundreds of those in marinas in Athens and around Greece, pleasure boats for the super-rich who that day decided to stay out on their fun cruises, tuning in the news to watch people burn.

The victims don’t have a plaque – some of their families are suing and the blame game is bouncing around, so don’t count on anyone being held accountable for anything here, including political responsibility.

Dimitris Matrakides, a software engineer who waited hours in the sea before being rescued by fishermen, told the British newspaper The Guardian: “To this day I cannot understand why the army wasn’t dispatched to get us on boats … a lot people, especially kids, were struggling to keep afloat. Once, when all of us saw a light in the distance, we shouted: “Help!”

That cry in Greece is almost never answered.

 

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