Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis apologizes “for any weaknesses” in the country’s efforts to contain and stop the gigantic wildfires, he said on Monday in an address to the nation. The wildfires in Greece have destroyed wide stretches of forest land and forced hundreds of people to evacuate their towns and villages over the last six days.
Mitsotakis stated in a video televised to the country “I completely understand the pain of our fellow citizens who saw their homes or property burning,” while adding that the first priority of firefighters was not to save property but “to save lives.”
“It is obvious that the climate crisis is affecting the whole planet,” he added. Now, he said there are “fires that last for days. That is the explanation, but not an excuse, or an alibi. We may have done everything that was humanly possible, but in many cases this did not seem to be enough in the unequal battle with nature,” the PM noted.
Mitsotakis said any failures in Greece’s firefighting response will be identified, those responsible will be held to account and people whose property was lost in the hundreds of different fires around the country will be compensated.
Prime Minster apologizes “for any weakness”
He said there had been a total of 63 orderly evacuations of towns and villages in the past several days while 586 fires had broken out all around the country. All of the fires had been made even more dangerous because of the dangerous heat wave experienced by the country in the last days.
Mitsotakis noted that there will be a special cabinet meeting on Tuesday which will announce further measures to tackle the ongoing effects of the wildfires.
After thanking countries that are assisting Greece with firefighters and equipment, the PM praised the efforts of Greece’s Civil Protection, pointing out that that the fact that there have been as yet no further fatalities “was neither self-evident nor given”.
One volunteer firefighter was killed last week as the result of an accident as he made his way to a fire by motorcycle.
The Prime Minister announced that 500 million euros, would be offered to victims for their immediate support, while announcing a targeted rehabilitation and re development program specifically for the island of Evia, one of the least wealthy areas in the country.
The Prime Minister’s statement is as follows:
“The last days have been one of the most difficult for our country for decades. We gave, and still give, the battle with all our might. But we are facing a natural disaster of unprecedented proportions: in a few days, 586 fires broke out in all corners of Greece. Fires which, due to the unprecedented heat and the many months of drought, are now very difficult to extinguish.
“Many countries are already assisting us with resources and staff. I thank them for their solidarity. Above all, however, I am grateful to all those who give the fight on the field. They struggle with supernatural powers that often exceed their strength. And yet, they do not stop. In their blackened faces we see the Greece that resists. While the wave of support and mutual aid that spreads throughout the territory signifies the decision of this people to quickly rebuild what was demolished.
“The fact that people were rescued, with complete evacuation plans, is due to the professionalism of the Civil Protection, as well as the action of the Police and the Coast Guard. It was not self-evident, nor a given. The same goes for the protection of many villages that were not burned down thanks to the self-sacrifice of firefighters and volunteers, and of course our pilots and the Armed Forces. Within 24 hours, there were 62 organized evacuations of residents in 141 areas.
“The extent of the disaster darkens the hearts of us all”
“The extent of the disaster, especially in Evia and Attica, darkens the hearts of us all. And first I apologize for any weaknesses that existed. I fully understand the pain of our fellow citizens who saw their homes or property burned. The upset of those who moved as-is from their residences.
“Even the angry questions of those seeking, for example, air assistance, without knowing if the firefighting aircraft were operating elsewhere or if the conditions were prohibitive.
“Our reactions, however, must not be blind. Any failures will be identified. And the responsibilities will be assigned whenever and wherever it is needed. The first issue, right now, is solutions. Just as the first issue was and remains the protection of human life. That is why the account of this experience must include not only what was lost, but also what was saved in such a huge fire that has no precedent.
“It is obvious that the climate crisis is now knocking on the door of the whole planet, with fires that last for weeks. This is an excuse, but not an excuse or an alibi. And I will say it clearly: we may have done what was humanly possible, but in many cases this did not seem to be enough in the unequal battle with nature. The same clearly, however, I will say that we will be next to those affected by the fire. As we did before, after the floods of the storm “Ianos” in Thessaly or the great earthquake of Samos.
“We owe it to ourselves to grit our teeth and move on. Other times the country experienced disasters but remained standing. The same thing will happen in this event, turning our sadness into strength. So we will continue on the front lines of fire extinction, as the war on fire continues. And, at the same time, we will begin to heal our wounds: those who lost homes and property will be compensated, the burned areas will be reforested and the necessary flood defenses will be launched immediately.
“We have already secured from the Recovery Fund significant resources for reforestation, mostly in Evia and Attica. While today I approved an additional budget of 500 million euros specifically for these areas. And if necessary, there will be additional European aid. Our bet is to set the standard for a new beginning, a dynamic restart, to which I am confident that institutions, businesses and, above all, civil society itself will respond.
“There we will plant — not only many, but also the right — trees, utilizing the most modern know-how. So that, with the help of nature, our forests can be reborn and life, and the economy, can return to the places that were hit by the flames.”