“At fault”: the controversy swells in Greece after the fires, the toll goes up to 87 dead

The controversy swelled on Friday in Greece after the fires that have ravaged Monday, the region of Athens, of which the balance sheet has increased to 87 people dead, the government is trying to clear by designating a track in criminal and involving decades of urban planning uncontrolled. In statements to the media, the chief of the forensic service of Athens, Nikos Karakoukis, was revised upwards to 86 deaths, the number of victims, compared with 82 officially identified so far. One seriously injured has also died in hospital.

On the ground at Mati, the locality most affected by the fires, the lifeguards who continue to rake the rubble in the middle of the pine trees burned does not exclude new discoveries macabre. “It is a long-term work, it is necessary to wait for the ashes to fall and sometimes ironing boards four, five times in the same place before they find something”, was the first aider Stavroula Stergiadou. The identification of the victims also needs to last for a few days, “75 to 80% of the bodies are charred,” said Grigoris Leon, president of the Greek society of legal medicine. The Greek government was attempting to his side to take over, while the critics go up on the management of this crisis, the opposition coming out of his reserve, at the end of three days of national mourning.

Rebuild otherwise

In succession on the scene, the government officials have questioned the decades of violation of the rules of construction and planning, which led to the construction in the area of some 4,000 houses that are underserved in the middle of the pines. “The whole area needs to be redrawn (…) it must be open roads, re-open the access to the sea,” argued the minister of the Interior, Panos Skourletis, noting that the authorities should “enter into conflict with organised interests”. “All of Greece is built on this model”, he insisted.

These mea culpas are recurrent in the country after each disaster, but until then real sudden stop put to the indiscipline of citizen and the complacency of official of which she enjoys. Invisible for three days, the Prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, has convened a council of ministers in the late afternoon. Thursday evening, the government had attempted an first official explanation, indicating you have entered the justice of a “serious factor” that may indicate a criminal origin of the disaster.

The progression to a devastating fire that ravaged the area in “just an hour and a half”, has deprived the authorities of any margin to act in time and evacuate the inhabitants, had also argued the government spokesman, Dimitris Tzanakopoulos.

“Government is dangerous”

The main opposition party, New Democracy (right), has denounced a “comedy’s rejection of any responsibility”, agreeing that many questions remain unanswered, including the number of firefighters involved, and the absence of an “order immediate evacuation”. “This government is dangerous and must go on,” responded one of the leaders of the opposition centrist, Fofi Gennimatas. Another, Stavros Theodorakis, said that not a single person has resigned. On the sets of tv and radio stations, the various services involved is referred as the ball.

Evangelos Bournous, the mayor of Rafina, which depends in part on the locality of Mati, the most hit by the fires, has held that the police and the fire department had helped to trap the people by closing the main road along the sector. Senior police officials and firefighters had previously said that they have not blocked that outcome. Many of the victims died trying to get to the sea, the access is sometimes barred by cliffs, with streets “wide by just 3 or 4 metres,” said the mayor. “We are all responsible, government, services and citizens,” he added, pointing out that his own family home, which burned, had been built illegally. “The question now is to know what can be done” to avoid a new tragedy, pointed out the editorial in the liberal daily Kathimerini.

A Mati, where 49% of the houses have been declared uninhabitable, the survivors continued Friday to try to save what could still be, supported by a vast outpouring of solidarity, with the influx of donations and volunteers. “It looks like a war zone, it is indescribable”, is moved to one of them, Zoi Pantelidou, 26 years.

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