NEWS

Pressure grows for apportioning of blame for fires

VASSILIS NEDOS, TANIA GEORGIOPOULOU, YIANNIS SOULIOTIS

Yannis Kolesidis/ANA-MPA

TAGS: Politics, Fires

As debate continued on Thursday about the responsibility for last week’s catastrophic wildfires, speculation reignited about a possible government reshuffle.

Even before the disastrous fires, sources had indicated that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was aiming to reshuffle his cabinet before his scheduled appearance at the Thessaloniki International Fair in the first week of September in a bid to bolster the “clean exit” narrative after Greece emerges from its bailouts later this month.

Though few believe a cabinet overhaul will happen much earlier than that, there is much debate within the ranks of leftist SYRIZA about the need for officials who had a central role in responding to last week’s crisis to be seen to assume responsibility.

Alternative Minister for Citizens’ Protection Nikos Toskas has come under the most pressure to withdraw though his offer to resign was rejected by Tsipras.

However, despite much speculation – including the possible replacement of Toskas by current Defense Minister Panos Kammenos – it is unclear what kind of changes might be on the cards.

There are calls for top-ranking officials to assume responsibility on a local authority level too. Last night municipal councilors were to hold an emergency session calling for the resignation of Marathon Mayor Ilias Psinakis, whom they accuse of negligence.

“Psinakis was not there during the critical hours,” according to Alexandros Somoglou, one of 23 municipal councilors who have signed a petition for Psinakis’s resignation, told Skai.

Tsipras declared on Thursday that “Attica’s two major tragedies, in Mandra and Mati,” should be the incentive for “significant changes,” referring to flash floods in western Attica last November and the fires last week in eastern Attica and the challenges posed by climate change.

Conservative New Democracy remarked that the PM has only now realized the relation of climate change to extreme weather conditions.

Meanwhile, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Christos Spirtzis said that critics of the government “should not provoke us.”

“We are struggling right now to help our fellow citizens,” he said.

A team of Australian experts with special training in search and rescue and restoring infrastructure after natural disasters is due in Athens on Friday to help Greek authorities.

The 12-strong delegation comprises 10 members of Australia’s Disaster Assistance Response Team and two crisis response officers from the country’s Foreign Ministry.

The offer to help was extended by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and coordinated between Toskas and Australian Ambassador Kate Logan.

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