Minister quits over fires amid pressure for more departures

Minister quits over fires amid pressure for more departures

Eleven days after the catastrophic fires that ravaged coastal areas of Attica, killing at least 88 people and razing large tracts of forestland, Alternate Minister for Citizens’ Protection Nikos Toskas submitted his resignation for a second time to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who this time accepted it. 

According to a statement issued by Tsipras’s office, Toskas repeated his offer to resign, first made last week, as the state of emergency imposed for the fires has elapsed. Toskas’s duties are to be assumed by Interior Minister Panos Skourletis, it said. 

In a subsequent post on Twitter, Tsipras thanked Toskas for his services and remarked that “the courage of a general is not only measured during the battle, but also during the assessment [that follows].” Toskas, a retired general, issued his own explanation.

“The natural disaster and the loss of so many fellow citizens in Mati surpasses my will to continue, which is something I had stated publicly from the first moment,” he said, referring to the coastal settlement in eastern Attica which was among the hardest hit by the wildfires.

Tsipras’s decision to accept Toskas’s resignation came amid mounting pressure from the political opposition as well as from within the government.

The main conservative opposition New Democracy party described it, however, as “too little too late to satisfy public sentiment.” 

Meanwhile, as top Athens prosecutor Ilias Zagoraios assumed the helm of an investigation into who should be held accountable for last week’s fires, the entire municipal council of Marathon drafted a petition calling for the resignation of Mayor Ilias Psinakis, who they accuse of being “absent” on the night of the fires.

The death toll from the blazes rose to 88 after a 35-year-old woman – the mother of a 6-month-old baby who died of smoke inhalation last week – succumbed to her injuries. Her husband is a firefighter who battled the blaze in Mati.

In a related development, Environment Minister Giorgos Stathakis said authorities will start demolishing 61 illegal constructions next week, including some on plots ravaged in the fires, mostly fences near beaches, streams and forests.

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