NEWS

Ileia still waiting for fire relief

The prefect of Ileia, the Peloponnesian prefecture that bore the brunt of last year’s catastrophic wildfires, yesterday complained of «desperate» delays in the pledged reconstruction of ravaged homes and farms and the disbursement of compensation to fire victims. Local farmers are in dire straits as they have been unable to rebuild their livelihoods and start producing crops again, Haralambos Kafyras told a press conference. Kafyras also accused the Environment and Public Works Ministry of «inconsistencies» in its announcements regarding scheduled repairs for burnt homes in the region. A recent ministry document refers to 199 homes that require rebuilding but an earlier announcement put this number at 524. «We don’t know where the ministry is getting its figures from,» Kafyras said. There have been similar delays in the rebuilding of stables and warehouses and in supplying producers with compensation for damaged agricultural equipment. Local farmers need the compensation if they are to prepare for the coming agricultural season, Kafyras said. Plans for local reforestation have failed to get off the ground too, the prefect said, charging that only Ancient Olympia has seen widespread replanting. Laborers who worked for months after the summer fires to cut down burnt trees and set up much-needed anti-flood barriers have not been paid for their efforts, Kafyras added. There has been no movement either in the planned reconstruction of damaged infrastructure such as roads and bridges, the prefect remarked. Kafyras also alleged that millions of euros in fire aid donated by the public after the fires are sitting in two accounts that have been frozen by the Economy Ministry for tax reasons. Of the 80 people who died in last summer’s forest fires, the majority were residents of Ileia. Greek firefighters are to join hundreds of their counterparts from France, Italy, Spain and Portugal today for the first ever joint European firefighting exercise in Sardinia. The exercise follows a European Union decision to build an emergency task force to fight fires on the continent.