TGH Exclusive: Chief firefighters in Greece offer messages of solidarity to Australia

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The black, dense veil of despair has wrapped Australia in recent months. The glimmer of hope is dimmed in the depths of the horizon, where the smoke from the fires continue to burn our country. Glimmers of optimism come from messages of support from the motherland, Greece. The Greek Herald wishes to serve as a bridge between the motherland and the homeland, carrying messages of support from Greece. The Greek Herald spoke exclusively with the key people who will be called upon to deal with and manage similar natural disasters in Greece.

Nikos Chardalias: “We Offer a Select Forest Firefighter Team for Australia”

Photo: EU Modex – Twitter

Their message of support is strong. Mr. Chardalias reveals to The Greek Herald, with Greece offering 42 people from a select group of firefighters. “On behalf of the General Secretariat for Civil Protection, the Greek State and the whole Greek people, we express our full support to the people of Australia and to the Greek expatriates who have been affected in recent months by the devastating fires that have claimed the lives of dozens of people, injured or saw people’s property lost. Of course, the damage they have done to the natural environment is also incalculable,” Mr Chardalias tells The Greek Herald exclusively.

“The General Secretariat for Civil Protection and myself, in my letter to the Director General of the EMA (Emergency Management Authority) on November 18, 2019, have expressed our condolences and the support of the Greek people, stressing that we remain at the disposal of the Australian authorities for any assistance. I would also like to emphasize that Greece has already offered a select group of firefighters, consisting of 42 persons with specialized equipment, through the European Civil Protection Mechanism, which is ready to go to the affected areas if requested by the Australian authorities.” The Australian Government has reportedly responded saying that they have sufficient resources.

Greece faces fires every summer and The Greek Herald has asked Mr. Chardalia to reveal its degree of preparedness. “Greece is particularly sensitive to the issue of forest fires, as it has experienced similar tragedies in the past, with the most recent being the deadly fire in Mati. The new Greek Government has set Civil Protection as one of its first priorities. In this context, a legislative initiative is underway and the new draft law on restructuring the Civil Protection system and the reorganisation of the Fire Department is expected to be adopted by the Greek Parliament at the end of January. Central to this new legislative framework is the creation of a vertical structure at all levels (National – Regional – Local) and for all disaster management cycles (Prevention – Preparedness – Response – Remediation), in order to eliminate multiplication, resulting in a lack of coordination from agencies. All of this will enable us to be as ready as possible to meet the challenges of climate change – which is tending to evolve into a climate crisis – and never to experience another ‘Mati’ again.”

Vassilis Matthaiopoulos: “With heartache we see what is happening in Australia”

The Chief of the Fire Brigade in Greece, Vassilis Matthaiopoulos, is the man whose shoulders burden the operational management of fires. He is shocked by what is happening, as he reveals to The Greek herald. “We are experiencing deep sadness and heartache from the unprecedented disaster that is taking place in Australia, as a result of the extensive fires that have hit the country severely in recent months. Having been confronted with similar situations in the past, the fire brigade of Greece shares their pain and sympathises with all those affected. The grief of the families and friends who lost their loved ones is also ours. We are also deeply saddened by the fact that the Australian firefighting family became smaller when they were lost firefighters, heroically fighting at the front of the fire. Finally, it cannot be overlooked that the enormous ecological disaster and impacts caused by the Australian fires are now affecting all citizens of the world. We wholeheartedly hope for the speedy recovery and remediation of the effects of the above catastrophe on the citizens, the natural environment and the economy of the country.”

Dimitris Stathopoulos: “We are on your side”

The President of the Federation of Greek Firefighters, Dimitris Stathopoulos, is in the eye of the cyclone every time a fire is lit in Greece. What is happening in Australia is unprecedented, as he reveals to The Greek Herald. “I have a personal view of the fires because I have relatives and friends in Australia. I want to send a message on behalf of all Greek firefighters through The Greek Herald. We are with you, we are with you. What is happening is incredible. It’s unprecedented. I would compare it to something as dramatic as the era when the dinosaurs disappeared from the earth. So unprecedented. Unfortunately, the consequences of climate change cannot be predicted. Our anxiety for Australia is a given, as is our support.”

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