“Αs the risk of major wildfires is still present in Greece, our thoughts are with those that are still fighting. In civil protection, the fire brigade, the local authorities and the volunteers,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Wednesday, opening the debate on the management of the disastrous wildfires that hit Greece and the measures to restore the damage.
“I expect today’s discussion to differ because the issue is a matter with an international dimension and with a common demand for answers to four questions,” Mitsotakis added.
The four questions are “whether we were well prepared, what went well and what went badly, the support for the fire-stricken and the ways we will address the consequences of the climate crisis in the future”.
The prime minister noted that during a “fiery attack unmatched in recent years”, there were no victims apart from Vassilis, a heroic volunteer. However, “properties and a large part of the country’s forest wealth were destroyed and this is the bitter cost of climate change that this year was combined with a long and persistent heatwave.” He also referred to the emergency number 112, saying this had proved how valuable it is.
“We were called upon to manage 1,279 wildfires in the first days of August, almost 60 every day and many of them were the result of arson. These fires have different characteristics…the scientists and the Meteo service explained why,” the premier said.
“We were better prepared than in previous years but this preparation was not enough to address this phenomenon. The firefighters and the volunteers’ self-sacrifice was unprecedented but there were mistakes, only nature does not make mistakes,” he underlined.
“We saw that we need more aerial firefighting means,” Mitsotakis said, continuing his speech at the Greek parliament, adding that the government will invest in new firefighting aircraft. “We will move fast with the acquisition and leasing of aerial means and will form a special unit, which will operate more effectively in forest areas”.
He said that our forests will regenerate and there will be technical reforestation where necessary.
“My public apology was a personal moral stance but above all a political action containing a message,” Mitsotakis pointed out, adding that it was not only a recognition of responsibility but also a call for action. “Only a few days after the fire we have begun healing our wounds. The recording of the damages has been completed. Never before has the Greek state acted so fast,” he said.
Mitsotakis also thanked the countries that sped to Greece’s assistance in the firefighting efforts: “In the afternoon I will meet with the responsibe European Commissioner in order to see how we will ensure additional assistance. The help was unprecedented as 23 countries rushed to assist. I thank them for their support”.
Finally, he reiterated that the priority in natural disasters was and is the protection of human life. “Our first priority was and remains the protection of human life.
PM Mitsotakis in Parliament: Executive state’s report card will come at next elections
The executive state “will be judged by the result” when the next elections come, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Wednesday, in a roundup of his government’s management of the wildfires that plagued Greece in August that he requested.
Responding to SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras in Parliament, Mitsotakis charged him with lying about aircraft assistance during the fires. “This year we had more means, and the most we have ever had,” he said, while he responded to public statements by Syriza MP Christos Spirtzis about why the large water-dousing airplane Beriev “is not flying” by asking, “Did you want us to send it aloft when the company was requesting increased maintenance?”
The PM also addressed Syriza criticism on the Fire Brigade’s management of the fires, noting that the current Fire Brigade chief Stefanos Kolokouris, was promoted twice by the Syriza government following the deadly fire at Mati in 2018. The latest promotion, Mitsotakis said, was that to the rank of lieutenant-general on February 1, 2019.
In another response to the main opposition relating to the mapping of all forestland in Greece, he said that the project had stalled because of 175,000 challenges to registrations, something the current government had had to resolve. He acknowledged however that Syriza’s work on the registry “is an achievement for Greece.”