New judicial investigations have been launched into destructive wildfires that struck Mani in the Peloponnese and the island of Kythira in 2017, following claims by former fire service chief Vassilis Matthaiopoulos, revealed by Kathimerini, according to which water-dropping aircraft were not dispatched to those fires as part of a bid to discredit a senior fire service official at the time.
Prosecutors in Piraeus and Gytheio, who oversee Kythira and Mani respectively, are reopening the investigations into those fires after Kathimerini revealed excerpts of taped conversations between Matthaiopoulos and fire service investigator Dimitris Liotsios in which the former can be heard saying that the two areas were deliberately left without aerial support.
The decision was allegedly part of an effort by the then fire chief, Vassilis Kapelios, to undermine Yiannis Vassiliadis, a former deputy chief of operations. “For Kapelios to get rid of Vassiliadis he left him in Kythira and Mani without aerial means,” Matthaiopoulos can be heard telling Liotsos. “That’s how the game is played.”
The revelations come as a judicial probe into the 2018 wildfire tragedy in eastern Attica widens following Kathimerini’s report, which points to evidence of an effort by officials under the leftist-led government at the time to cover up the gross mishandling of the incident, which killed 102 people.
Exactly two years after the catastrophic wildfires that ravaged Mati and Neos Voutzas in eastern Attica, relatives of the victims are on Thursday to gather at a church in Neos Voutzas where a monument to the dead is to be unveiled.
During the ceremony, the names of the dead will be read out before those in attendance walk to the neighboring town of Mati, along roads on which scores died in an attempt to flee the fires.
The memorial will end with a wreath being thrown into the sea where hundreds were trapped for hours during the tragedy and several died.