Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis spoke at a press conference on Thursday about the impact that climate change has had on the wildfires that continue to blaze around the country.
“The climate crisis is here and is showing us that everything must change. The facts demand bold solutions for which I am ready,” proclaimed Mitsotakis to the Greek public.
The impact of climate change on Greece’s fires
Mitsotakis opened the conference by highlighting that although the environmental and financial cost of the fires was extremely high, there was almost no loss of human life. One videographer was killed in an accident on his way to help firefighters map out where the fires were kindling.
The Prime Minister explained that the government’s top priority during natural disasters was to protect both human and animal life.
“We were able to protect thousands of people but we lost forests and properties. It is important that we did not have casualties in the largest wildfires we have encountered in recent years,” continued Mitsotakis.
He also explained that people affected by the fires who may have lost property to them should receive compensation in the following days, and that he is determined to rebuild what has been so tragically lost.
The Prime Minister was also questioned on the fire prevention plan which had been announced before the wildfires. Reporters grilled Mitsotakis, asking whether he believed that the plan had been effective, considering the fires blazing around the country.
“We are judged by the result. Last year we had only a few fires but this year we experienced what we experienced,” Mitsotakis admitted. He continued by saying that Greece’s heat waves were unprecedented, something which many scientists have blamed on climate change, and made for the perfect environment for fires to spread.
He also mentioned that it is likely that not all of the fires were accidental, and that an arson investigation is ongoing. According to the press conference, an incredible 600 wildfires broke out in a period of seven days.
“Ι won’t reject the fire prevention plan that was created but the phenomena were beyond our powers and the level of our preparation,” Mitsotakis acknowledged.
Conservationist claims fire prevention should be a higher priority
A World Wildlife Fund conservationist named Kostas, who did not want his last name used, stated in an interview with Deutsche Welle that most of the funds used in the recent past for firefighting by Greece and all other Mediterranean countries should have been used for fire prevention.
He stated that the area that burned north of the capital city was “the green lung that remained” after recent development in the city and the fires that burned Mt. Parnitha approximately 15 years ago. ”This was one of the remaining lands that we’re losing today,” he lamented.
He added that even after natural reforestation, the area “will take a good 15-20 years before it is in this shape again.”
Asked what can be done to prevent such scourges from terrorizing the nation again, Kosta replied “Fires always need to be prevented. Like we say, if you need to extinguish a fire, it’s already too late. Fires need to be prevented, not extinguished.
“And what we see in Greece and in all the Mediterranean countries in the past decades is a loss of knowledge, a loss of interest in fire prevention. Prevention is a very scientific process. it does not show off, so politicians don’t get any credit for it. We usually do not see it — because if it (works) you don’t see the results, you don’t see the fires.”