Greek government defends response as Evia wildfires burn for eighth day


A political scuffle has begun in Athens as frontline personnel work around the clock to battle wildfires for the eighth day running on Tuesday.

The main political opposition party SYRIZA in Athens has blamed the government for using climate change as an excuse to cover up deficiencies in its handling of the crisis. 

“Climate change is, without doubt, an especially dangerous reality. However, it cannot be used as an excuse by the government because it ignored our warnings and those of scientists,” SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras told reporters.

Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias jumped to the government’s defence, telling reporters the state apparatus did all it could in the face of the worst heatwave in 30 years.

“Do not shoot the fighters in the hour of battle. Every home lost for us is a stab in the heart,” Hardalias said. 

“The losses we suffered involved fighters, not civilians.” 

Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias (right) jumped to the defence of the Government following Opposition leader Alexis Tsipras’ (left) comments (Left: Michael Kappeler—dpa/Corbis) (Right: via

The government announced relief measures – including compensation and tax exemptions – for those who have lost homes and property, but that wasn’t enough to quell the concerns of residents in villages of high risk. 

“Police came and told us to evacuate the village of Avgaria but we cannot, this is our property. We cannot let our homes burn,” said Ioannis Aggelopoulos, 55, who owns a car body shop at Istiaia in the epicenter of Evia’s wildfires. 

“We have been sleeping in shifts.”

586 wildfires broke out in eight days.

Other fronts in the Peloponnese have also reignited, and authorities ordered the evacuation of 20 more villages in the region of Arkadia.

Almost 1,000 firefighters, nine aircraft and 200 vehicles have been sent to Greece from other European countries to help. 

One volunteer firefighter has died and three others have been hospitalised. 

Residents used hoses to put out fires burning near their homes and helped firefighters and volunteers.

“They’re the ones who saved the village today,” one elderly resident said, pointing to a team of Slovak firefighters tackling flames in a forested area.

“It’s a huge fire, it’s not easy to get it under control,” said the crew’s team leader, Peter Kovalik.

“We are doing our best.”

The Athens National Observatory estimates that about 65,000 hectares have been burned in total as of Sunday. 

Dozens of villages and thousands of people have been evacuated. 

Source: Reuters 




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