Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Friday he took full political responsibility for the deadly blaze that has killed at least 87 people in a coastal town in east Athens this week.
“The dead cannot talk but the least we can do in their memory is to show respect for the truth. I want to take full political responsibility for the tragedy before the cabinet,” he said at the start of an emergency cabinet meeting at Maximos Mansion to discuss the fires.
“It is self-evident for the country's prime minister and I call on you too to take it,” he told his ministers.
His statements were a departure from the tone set by a last-minute press conference of government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos, Civil Protection Minister Nikos Toskas and the heads of the fire service and police on Thursday night, who attributed the tragedy to arsonists and extreme weather conditions, avoiding taking any responsibility for lackluster or incomplete planning.
During the press conference, Toskas claimed there had been 'no major operational mistakes' and that there was no time to evacuate people because the blaze spread very quickly.
Tsipras called on critics to avoid targeting firefighters, coast guard officials and policemen involved in the colossal firefighting operation, saying they saved hundreds of lives.
He also pledged that the government will draw up a plan to correct decades-old building violations and called on the opposition to participate in its preparation.
About 300 firefighters and volunteers were still combing the area of Mati on Friday to find dozens that are still missing.