As the summer period gets into full swing, Greece is once again locked in battle with devastating wildfires. The country must do everything in its power to prevent the loss of human life and the destruction of forestland and property.
Swaths of Greece are razed by fire virtually every summer. One only hopes that the painful lessons from last year’s hundreds of catastrophic blazes that burned across the country, will act as a guide in adequately dealing with what is already happening in Penteli and numerous other parts of the country, and most likely will continue over the next couple of months.
After officials acknowledged mistakes in battling last year’s huge fire in Evia, a new minister for Climate Crisis and Civil Protection was appointed. Not a member of the ruling party, Greek Cypriot Christos Stylianidis – he was awarded Greek citizenship before being sworn – is a former European commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management.
What he has brought to the newly created post was vast experience in dealing with natural disasters, as well as knowledge of and insight into the European crisis mechanism.
After last year’s fires stretched Greece’s capabilities to the limit, he put his experience to work. Some 200 European firefighters have already begun to assist their Greek colleagues and will be here for the rest of July and August.
Units from France, Romania, Bulgaria, Germany, Norway and Finland are being based in three cities across Greece. Some are bringing their own vehicles and equipment as well, like trucks and pumps, even drones.
As Stylianides noted, “disaster prevention and preparedness is the most effective weapon we have.” This obvious truism is already being tested.
In the first three months of 2022 there has been a worrisome increase in the number of forest fires relative to previous years. And the effectiveness with which they are handled in the next couple of months will not only have an obvious human and environmental impact, but, with national elections looming – after the prime minister’s public declarations they are expected to take place next spring – it might also have political repercussions.