IN MEDEA'S WAKE

State mechanism’s failings exposed

state-mechanism-s-failings-exposed

The power outages and general mayhem caused by last week’s snowstorms, particularly in northern Attica, once again exposed the shortcomings of the country’s state mechanisms and led to the usual blame game over who was ultimately responsible.

In the wake of the backlash caused by the Medea weather front, the government, which found itself in a race against time to restore power to almost 40,000 households in Attica, pledged to introduce legislation that will, for one, clarify the overlapping responsibilities of state and municipal authorities on maintenance issues.

More specifically, the “management” of trees that are near utility poles, toppled in their hundreds and causing the blackouts, will be undertaken exclusively by the municipalities. The state power distribution network (DEDDIE), meanwhile, will be responsible for cable maintenance and restoration where there is a problem.

Underground electricity cables will also be introduced, where possible, in areas deemed as high risk. To this end, some 200 million euros will be earmarked from the European Union’s Recovery Fund.

With regard to the long delay in repairing the damages that left thousands without power for more than two days, government sources cited a number of reasons, not least the slow responses of both DEDDIE and local authorities.

Given that there were about 5,000 incidents involving damaged trees, DEDDIE’s ability to respond efficiently was severely compromised by the fact that its staff in Attica is limited to 600 people. Due to chronic underfunding, moreover, DEDDIE’s power grid is antiquated, exacerbating the problem.

During the final phase of the power restoration effort, meanwhile, DEDDIE had to set up a new network in some cases where the damage did not allow the poles and cables to be placed in the previous position. The absence of a digital system made the recovery that much harder, as a door-to-door inspection had to be carried out to ascertain where there was electricity and where there was not.

But there were also critical failures in other areas. Kathimerini understands that the Civil Protection Authority had sent its operational plan for the management of heavy snowfall to municipalities as early as last November and that out of the 325 municipalities, only 14 responded.