A state that pretends

A state that pretends

The city of Volos and the villages of Mount Pelion in central Greece were hit by severe floods on Tuesday afternoon. Furthermore, as early as Tuesday, or possibly even before, staying informed about areas at risk from upcoming severe storms could have been as simple as tuning in to weather reports on television. However, the Civil Protection authorities only sought assistance from the armed forces on Thursday morning.

A few hours after the request for help, the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (GEETHA) posted photos on the X social media platform (formerly known as Twitter) depicting an army bulldozer transporting residents of Palamas, a village near Karditsa. The post said, “We are everywhere.” I presume the instruction given to the bulldozer crew went along the lines of “Rush to Palamas to rescue people and capture some photos on your mobile phones for social media.”

Additionally, on Thursday, the government established an operations center in Larissa, as if the earlier devastation in Magnesia was not enough to awaken its reflexes. This decision came only after several villages had been cut off from the rest of the country for three days, with thousands of people, both locals and visitors, trapped without access to electricity, water or food. It was only on Tuesday that the minister for Civil Protection, accompanied by the heads of the armed forces, the fire service, and the Hellenic Police, appeared on television to reassure those affected that they were “here for them.”

On one hand, the country faces unprecedented events due to climate change. On the other, there is a state apparatus that cannot proactively respond with appropriate measures to mitigate these impacts. For example, the recent revision of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan omitted flood prevention projects due to implementation delays (a similar fate befell plans to upgrade Greece’s railway network, but that is a topic to be discussed after the next railway disaster). What’s more, we have a state that struggles to effectively and promptly coordinate its resources and utilize the assets at its disposal. Had army bulldozers reinforced the embankments on the Karditsa plain on Tuesday or Wednesday, there might have been no need for inflatable dinghies and helicopters to rescue people on Thursday and Friday.

As a local would likely say, we have a state that merely pretends to be everywhere and for everyone.

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