Landfill protest spirals into chaos

Fire engines and water-dropping helicopters were called in to extinguish a blaze that broke out in Grammatiko, northeastern Attica, yesterday morning, during clashes between riot police and local residents who had sought to block the launch of works to build a landfill in their area. It was unclear what ignited the blaze, which had been brought under control by early afternoon, although the fire service said it might have been caused by an exploding canister of tear gas or by one of several cars torched during the unrest. The trouble started early yesterday morning when dozens of residents set up blockades along the roads leading to the site slated for the construction of a landfill, one of two that the government has planned to relieve the saturation at Attica’s single garbage-disposal unit. The protesters also used bulldozers to dig up dirt tracks in a bid to obstruct the vehicles belonging to the contractor entrusted with building the landfill. When riot police arrived, some protesters threw stones, prompting officers to fire tear gas. One officer was said to have suffered serious injuries when a resident allegedly drove into him with his car. Several residents reportedly suffered minor injuries in the ensuing clashes and Grammatiko Mayor Giorgos Papageorgiou is said to have fainted. Deputy Interior Minister Thanassis Nakos said that efforts to start building the landfill at Grammatiko were merely «an attempt to implement a regional plan approved by local authorities.» But the prefect for eastern Attica, Leonidas Kouris, accused «those responsible for the sinful management of Attica’s garbage of playing with taxpayers, using the pretext of the need to absorb European Union subsidies.» He called on the government to launch a dialogue with local authorities to find a «real solution.»