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Greeks Trade Blame as Fires Rage On

Greek and foreign firefighters and volunteers are trying to halt wildfires raging in the forests of Parnitha, Attiki and Dadia in Evros – as the opposition steps up its criticism of the government’s response.

Greek and foreign firefighters and volunteers are operating in Parnitha, Attica, to contain the fire there. The Ministry for Climate Crisis and Civil Protection sent information about the wildfire and urged the evacuation of the residents of Agia Paraskevi.

Some 260 firefighters with 13 pedestrian groups, 77 vehicles, 10 aircraft, two from Germany and two from Sweden, as well as 11 helicopters, are operating at the scene. In addition, 19 firefighters with four vehicles from France are operating, as well as volunteer firefighters.

Strong forces have been deployed by the Ministry of Defence and police as well as the administrative region of Attica. In Parnitha, fire brigades faced 12 fires in the last 24 hours.

Residents carry buckets of water tto extinguish any flames left burning at Agia Paraskevi village near Acharnes, Attica, Greece, 23 August 2023. Photo: EPA-EFE/ALEXANDROS BELTES

The forest of Parnitha was declared a National Forest in 1961 and is part of the European network of protected areas “Natura 2000”. It is called the “lung” of Attiki, as it is home to fir trees but also to deer and other rare species, especially birds.

Battling fires at Alexandroupoli, Dadia forest, and at Rodopi, ground and air forces face many rekindlings. In this area some 56 firefighters with 12 vehicles from Romania, 36 firefighters with five vehicles from Bulgaria, 64 firefighters with 32 vehicles from the Czech Republic, and through a bilateral agreement, 46 firefighters with four vehicles from Albania, are all operating.

A firefighter tries to extinguish a fire that burns the monastery of Osios Lucas, at Viotia, Greece, 23 August 2023. Photo: EPA-EFE/PANOS PRAGIANNIS

Fires are also raging in Distomo, Boeotia, where both ground and air forces are operating. According to the Fire Service, 60 firefighters have been injured so far.

Pictures of fires burning the precincts of the historic monastery of Hosios Loukas in Boeotia, a Byzantine monument of Greece included in the UNESCO list of world heritage, have caused anger and sadness.

WWF Greece, in a statement, complained of the lack of preventive measures to deal with the fires and the absence of public dialogue.

“In Greece, for at least the last 25 years, fires have been tackled with a unilateral focus on suppression, with piecemeal measures and policies aimed at a temporary and in some way ‘spot’ treatment of the issue. The relevant decisions seem to be taken without analysis of the data by the competent bodies, without evaluation, without public debate on what can be improved, possibly due to the fear of being blamed, sanctioned or public criticism,” it said.

A fire burns trees next to the Egnatia highway in Alexandroupolis, Thrace, northern Greece, 23 August 2023. Photo: EPA-EFE/DIMITRIS ALEXOUDIS

The opposition PASOK and SYRIZA parties both criticized the centre-right New Democracy government, filing a request for a debate in parliament at the level of political leaders.

“These events prove every day that security and civil protection are the Waterloo of the current government,” said PASOK’s leader, Nikos Androulakis.

“It is unthinkable to respond to these tragic conditions, which the Greek people are facing, with conspiracy theory scenbarios. Statements by the responsible minister two years ago have not clarified responsibilities between the ministry and the local government,” he added.

“Greece is literally burning from one end to the other. An evacuation signal has been given up to 10 kilometers from the center of Athens. The whole country is receiving an evacuation signal. A country surrendered, a society in general insecurity, a government offensively ineffective. Insecurity overshadows the everyday life of the citizens. We don’t just have an ineffective government but a government that is offensive to the citizens,” SYRIZA’s leader – until a new leader is elected in September – Sokratis Famellos, said, also demanding a debate.

Source : Balkans Insight