Survivors of last month’s deadly blazes on the outskirts of Attica are struggling to cope while experts are warning of the public health risks posed by toxic ash in the afflicted areas, Kathimerini has learned.
As residents continue to return to the coastal settlements of Mati and Neos Voutzas, which bore the brunt of last month’s disastrous wildfires, it has emerged that many survivors, including elderly people, have lost their health booklets and that many are confused and in need of psychological support that the state is not systematically offering, with the onus falling on nongovernment organizations.
“The people coming to us are very emotional and confused,” according to Alexandra Michailidou of Doctors of the World, which has a mobile unit in Rafina, an area also struck by the fires.
The ordeal also appears to have taken its toll on members of the police force who were involved in identifying dozens of the victims whose bodies were removed from the sites of the fires. On Tuesday, amid fears of the possible onset of post-traumatic stress disorder, 10 police officers attended a session with a specialized psychologist, while another five, who are now on vacation, will do the same on their return.
Meanwhile efforts to clear up the areas ravaged by the blazes continued. The Environment Ministry on Tuesday issued a guide for the collection of waste, calling for the different types of refuse – rubble, burnt trees, the remains of electric appliances etc – to be sorted and deposited in the various bins set out by municipal authorities.
In any case, both residents and volunteers taking part in the cleanup should wear protective gloves and surgical masks, experts have said.
“Residents, workers and volunteers must be careful in the burnt areas as toxic compounds have entered the soil,” Nikos Michalopoulos, the head of the Athens Observatory’s Institute for Environmental Research and Sustainable Development, told Kathimerini. Particular care must be taken in moving matter containing asbestos, he said.