- Title: Angry Greeks criticize government response after wildfire devastation
- Date: 9th August 2021
- Summary: ATHENS, GREECE (AUGUST 8, 2021) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF BURNED HOUSES IN FORESTED AREA OF VARYPOMPI VARIOUS OF BURNED CAR SITTING IN PARKING SPACE OF HOUSE (SOUNDBITE) (Greek) LOCAL RESIDENT STELIOS KOKKINELIS SAYING: "I pretended to hide, and I went to the other side of the house and put out the fire by myself, with my own water. What could I do? It would have burned." VARIOUS OF STELIOS KOKKINELIS SPRAYING WATER AROUND HIS PROPERTY WITH A HOSE (SOUNDBITE) (Greek) LOCAL RESIDENT STELIOS KOKKINELIS SAYING: "What would I tell him? That (the state) does not function properly." VARIOUS OF TREES ON KOKKINELIS PROPERTY BURNED (SOUNDBITE)(Greek) EIRINI, DAUGHTER OF STELIOS KOKKINELIS, GETTING CHOKED UP, SAYING: "Our hero, the man that built it, that maintained it, I owe him a big thanks," EIRINI KOKKINELI HUGGING HER FATHER CRYING, HER FATHER SAYING, (Greek) "IT'S OK" (SOUNDBITE)(Greek) DAUGHTER OF STELIOS KOKKINELIS EIRINI KOKKINELI, WEEPING, SAYING: "Just rage, that is the only thing that I feel." BURNED GATE OF PROPERTY BURNED HOUSE ON PROPERTY (SOUNDBITE)(Greek) DAUGHTER OF STELIOS KOKKINELIS EIRINI KOKKINELI, ANGRY AND WEEPING, SAYING: "Only you can save yourself and your neighbour, I don't expect anything from any state, from any political party, or from any government. Nothing." TABLE IN A TAVERN BURNED, PLATES AND CUPS STILL ON THE TABLE BURNED TABLES AND CHAIRS BURNED IN TAVERN IN FOREST VARIOUS OF BURNED TAVERN BICYCLE DECORATION IN TAVERN BURNED COMPLETELY GUTTED OUT HOUSE VARIOUS OF PARAKEVI KOYKI STANDING IN FRONT OF HOUSE (SOUNDBITE)(Greek) PARASKEVI KOYKI, AGED 54, SAYING: "For me, there is no state, we were not helped by anyone. (Measures) should have been taken years ago." BURNED FOREST BURNED HOUSE IN FOREST BURNED CHYMNEY OF HOUSE ANOTHER BURNED HOUSE (SOUNDBITE)(Greek) ARISTOTELIS ANDROUTSOPOULOS SAYING: "If there is no preventive plan beforehand for the forest, if the forest is not cleaned up beforehand - I am not a forest ranger - but there should be preventine measures, not (something) being done (after) out of force." VARIOUS OF A POWER LINE CUT IN HALF BY FIRE AND HANGING FROM THE CABLES (SOUNDBITE)(Greek) ARISTOTELIS ANDROUTSOPOULOS SAYING: "We will be seeing this black for a long time unfortunately, just black. Winter will pass, and maybe Spring will come again and bring us some green again." STREET WITH BURNED HOMES VARIOUS OF BURNED HOUSE, SHUTTERS CHARRED, INTERIOR BURNED, FIREPLACE INSIDE BURNED LIVING ROOM
- Embargoed: 23rd August 2021 17:42
- Keywords: Greece fires
- Location: ATHENS, GREECE
- City: ATHENS, GREECE
- Country: Greece
- Topics: Disaster/Accidents,Europe,Wildfires/Forest Fires
- Reuters ID: LVA001EPK7BYF
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: As flames threatened to engulf the home of Stelios Kokkinelis in a suburb north of Athens at the weekend and the emergency services failed to respond to his calls for help, he decided to ignore an evacuation order and take matters into his own hands.
"I pretended to hide, and I went to the other side of the house and put out the fire by myself, with my own water. What could I do? It would have burned," said the 82-year-old, who built his three-story house in the wooded area of Varympompi when he returned home after 25 years in South Africa.
When asked what he would say to the prime minister, he responds, "What would I tell him? That (the state) does not function properly."
His daughter Eirini was in tears as she told of how she fled without knowing what had happened to her father or whether the home she and her family shared with him would be destroyed.
"Our hero, the man that built it, that maintained it, I owe him a big thanks," she said, her eyes filling with tears.
"Just rage, that is the only thing that I feel. Only you can save yourself and your neighbour, I don't expect anything from any state, from any political party, or from any government. Nothing."
Photos shared on social media of exhausted firefighters asleep on the ground, still dressed in the smoke-stained uniforms they wore to fight the flames showed the strain the emergency services are under.
Almost 1,000 firefighters, nine aircraft and 200 vehicles have been sent to Greece from other European countries to help battle devastating wildfires near Athens and elsewhere.
But as reinforcements arrived, some Greeks have asked why local fire services needed help.
Television reports and social media have featured angry commentary about the lack of firefighters to tackle blazes, mixed with pointed observations about the disproportionate number of police.
After a decade of austerity that cut into public services, Greek firefighting services are badly weakened, said Dimitris Stathopoulos, head of Greece's firefighters federation. He said 5,000 firefighters needed to be hired immediately.
Temperatures were so high last week in the early stages of the Varympompi fire, that water dropped by fire-fighting aircraft evaporated before reaching the flames, he added.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said last week there would be a time for "criticism and self-criticism" over the way authorities responded to the fires.
The United Nations panel on climate change warned on Monday that the world was dangerously close to runaway global warming.
In June, the Civil Protection Ministry announced a 1.7 billion-euro fire protection plan, funded mostly by the European Investment Bank and European Union, which includes replacing aging Canadair fire-fighting aircraft and fire service hirings.
On Saturday, a senior government official, responded to criticism that the government had not done enough, posting figures showing Greece well ahead of other Mediterranean countries for the number of water-bombing aircraft.
He said spending on civil protection measures had increased by 56% in the past three years, with permanent and seasonal firefighter numbers up 16% to 14,736. Greece now had 74 firefighting aircraft now compared with 51 in 2018.
The wildfires have so far not caused nearly as many casualties as the blazes three years ago that killed more than 100 people, destroying public confidence in the leftwing Syriza government which lost the subsequent elections.
Although criticism by the opposition has been muted so far, public anger could continue long after the flames die down.
"For me, there is no state, we were not helped by anyone. (Measures) should have been taken years ago," said homeowner Paraskevi Koyki.
"We will be seeing this black for a long time unfortunately, just black. Winter will pass, and maybe Spring will come again and bring us some green again," said resident Aristotelis Androutsopoulos.
(Production: Vassilis Triandafyllou, Deborah Kyvrikosaios, Stamos Prousalis, Fanny Brodersen)
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