Greek gov’t shrugs off blame in handling of deadly fire

Greek gov’t shrugs off blame in handling of deadly fire

With criticism mounting against the government over its response, or lack thereof, to last week’s devastating wildfire, Citizens’ Protection Minister Nikos Toskas insisted that “no operational mistakes were made.”

“We immediately diverted the fire-fighting force to Pendeli. The fire was impossible to contain on Marathon Avenue,” the deputy minister said over the weekend, while admitting that the chief of the fire service in Mati, the worst-hit part of east Attica, had called for the evacuation of the area. 

Toskas last week said there had been no time to evacuate residents because the blaze spread very quickly and also that there were “indications” arsonists were behind the disaster.

The arson narrative, however, was shot down on Friday in a report from the fire service’s arson department (DAEE), which suggested the cause was negligence.

The government’s narrative has also come under fire from opposition New Democracy, which accuses the coalition of failing when it came to the ultimate goal of saving lives.

“It appears that for reasons which need to be investigated, nothing worked satisfactorily,” shadow defense minister Vassilis Kikilias said. “The area should have been evacuated.”

Toskas’s remarks on Saturday followed a cabinet meeting a day earlier, where Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras belatedly took “full political responsibility” after government officials sought for days to shrug off responsibility in preventing and dealing with the aftermath of the deadly wildfires that killed at least 88 people and injured 52, with dozens still unaccounted for.

But with funerals for the victims beginning yesterday, Tsipras’s remarks were too little, too late, according to opposition parties, which denounced him for offering no apologies or resignations.

“Political responsibility means recognition of mistakes and omissions,” said centrist Potami in a statement, adding that assuming responsibility means resignations and sackings. “This is pure hypocrisy, which society understands and will punish.”

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