A humorous vignette published this Monday in the newspaper katheriminei, one of the most read in Greece and signed by Ilias Makris, shows a firefighter spraying the hands of conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis as he washes them. The joke reflects the feelings of many Greeks after the country’s biggest ecological disaster caused by the fires of the past two weeks which have killed two people and devastated some 65,000 hectares – against 1,700 on average between 2008 and 2020 -, a decade later another great tragedy: the Great Economic Recession.
Greek television and social networks are on fire after the accusations by the opposition, the population and the most critical against the Athens government, which they point to for its incompetence in managing the crisis and the lack of air resources, especially in the island of Euboea, the second after Crete, where more than 36,000 hectares have already been burned.
Mitsokatis, who last week promised “a dose of criticism and self-criticism as soon as possible”, assured that the state has responded to the best of its ability to the 536 outbreaks across the country, which have coincided with a wave extreme temperatures across the country. Europe and have put fire response capacity to the limit, promising that fire and flood prevention protocols will be reviewed “once this nightmarish summer is over”. This Monday, after an emergency meeting of the New Democracy government, in power for two years, Mitsotakis appeared on television in the afternoon to announce aid of 500 million euros and assured that the responsibilities failures would be purged. “I apologize for the losses. Those who lost their properties will be compensated and the burned areas will be reforested.” And he concluded: “Climate change is knocking on the door of the entire planet.
The Prime Minister’s promises do not satisfy the opposition. “For the sixth day in a row, the north of the island of Evia is burning. The local government and the citizens are crying out that they are desperately alone, that they do not have enough air to breathe or forces for protection. on the ground and that the only concern is evacuation. Is there a plan? HOW LONG will this drama last? “Wrote Sunday Alexis Tsipras, former Prime Minister and leader of the left Syriza, on his Twitter account.
However, Nikos Giannopoulos of the News 24/7 television channel believes that “although the complaints of the citizens of Euboea and Attica are serious, the parliamentary majority of the government is not threatened. Its influence and popularity may be reduced, but Syriza fails to gain popularity because of the fires”.
Join EL PAÍS to follow all the news and read without limits.
While the flames seemed to be under control or smothered on the outskirts of Athens, the Peloponnese and other regions, in Euboea, from where some 2,000 people were evacuated, the panorama continued on Monday of violent desolation. “It’s a huge gray and black desert,” said retired journalist Pambos Hatzilambis in a telephone conversation with this newspaper. “We were evacuated twice and we saved the house, but everything burned down.” Pambos assures that in the center and south of Evia the fires seem to be subsiding, but that in the northern peak of the island the fires continue, overwhelming everything. “An immense desert of ashes”, he repeats in a voice full of sadness.
Destruction in Euboea
Thodoris Keris, mayor of Roviés in the north of the island, told private television Mega that around 90% of the livelihoods of its 200,000 inhabitants, including tourism and agriculture, had been destroyed and claimed that several neighbors are preparing a joint trial. , according to Efe.
For the moment, the management of the crisis has already claimed its first victim: the head of the air force, Yorgos Kumendákos, presented his resignation on Monday, while the Supreme Court announced an investigation to determine whether the fires could have been caused by a criminal organization. But neither Mitsotakis’ words nor the aid sent by the EU — 1,000 firefighters, 9 planes and 200 vehicles — calm the anger of those who have lost everything.
“The government must resign. He didn’t do anything,” Makis Ladogiannakis, a 77-year-old resident of Euboea, told Reuters. After a decade of austerity in the public sector, fire protection services are badly affected, Dimitris said Stathopoulos, head of the Greek Federation of Firefighters, who argues that there is an urgent need to hire at least 5,000 more.
“It is difficult to predict what political impact the fires will have,” said analyst Nikos Kostandaras of the daily catherimini, in an email. “The fact that there were few deaths [en comparación con los 102 muertos en Mati en 2018] it is an important factor, but the opposition are doing all they can to undermine this by saying that the fire fighting strategy and methods could have been better.