Measures for summer risks

The government is making more funds and personnel available this year in an effort to cope with typical summertime scourges such as forest fires, drought, heat waves, security in tourist areas, and passenger shipping. On Tuesday, Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis announced a series of measures following a meeting of the Coordinating Ministerial Organization. Although the State began preparations last February, the interior minister warned that «the State is not enough if the people don’t do their part.» He made a particular point of appealing to the public, given the expectation of high-risk conditions prevailing this summer and because increased and extended rainfall in the cool months produced a lot of vegetation that is now nothing more than dry kindling. By July 10, 7,000 seasonal workers will have been hired for firefighting and forestry protection. Already 4,500 seasonal firefighters are on the job, and another 2,040 people will be hired within the next few days by the Forestry Protection Service. Another 500 temporary municipal staff will be hired on two-month contracts to patrol forest areas around towns. More observation posts have been erected, bringing the total to 470, while 25 million euros have been granted to municipalities and forestry cooperatives for clearing forest roads and opening fire breaks. Another 11.7 million euros is to come from the Agriculture Ministry to construct water reservoirs. Skandalidis said 56 firefighting aircraft have been put in place around the country and two Canadair planes are at the ready. To cope with the effects of drought, 145 million euros has been made available to 43 prefecures for small projects such as dams and reservoirs to help supply water to 251 regions including Thessaly, Thrace, Corinth, Achaia and the Messaria valley in Crete, where the worst problems are to be found. For the same reason, the Aegean Ministry has made extra funds available this year to transport water to smaller islands that have no sources of their own. This year there will be double the number of air-conditioned areas open to the public during heat waves, while the Health Ministry has also filled all posts at country medical centers, apart from a few exceptions for which no candidates applied. Another 130 additional doctors, double last year’s number, have been hired for the islands and isolated areas, while the Public Order Ministry has transferred police officers to tourist areas. According to officials in the General Secretariat for Civil Protection, although Crete and Rhodes are well prepared for summer already, Attica is struggling to meet the deadlines. Athens electric railway trains heading from Piraeus to Kifissia will not stop at the Nea Ionia station from June 25 to September 9, due to station renovation works, the railway authority ISAP said yesterday.

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