News World Greek authorities lost in red tape over fire evacuation drill

Greek authorities lost in red tape over fire evacuation drill

Greece has a civil protection plan. But the long document was virtually worthless on Monday as a killer fire burnt at least 83 people to death.

With an investigation on the causes of the blaze ongoing, witnesses, firemen and mayors agree on one thing: There was no evacuation order. But they cannot agree on who should have made the call.

“The church bells didn’t ring, the sirens didn’t go off, no one alerted us,” Phoebe Angelopoulos told Alpha TV.

“No alert, there was nothing, nothing, nothing,” an elderly survivor said.

It remains a riddle why authorities did not order anyone out of the small town east of Athens that turned into a death trap for dozens of people on Monday evening.

Most people involved said there was no time for coordinated action. One government official put the wind speed at 120 kph (75 mph). Experienced firemen said there was roughly a 20-minute window to evacuate.

Instead of an organised evacuation, many got into their cars, jamming narrow streets. Victims were running in all directions. Rows of gutted cars reflect the agony of the residents.

Government officials said that the evacuation was the mayor’s job. “Only municipal authorities can order it,” a senior government official told Reuters.

A regional governor also pointed at local mayors.

“Evacuation plans are with the municipal authorities, who are also responsible for drafting them. Each municipality has its own plan,” Eleni Tsoupra, the regional governor of civil protection, told Reuters.

But the speed of the wind and the abrupt change of its direction made an organised evacuation, as described in official documents, an almost impossible task, she added.

After meeting Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, the mayor of the wider Marathon region, Elias Psinakis, said that evacuating Mati was not his responsibility.

“The fire brigade orders it,” Psinakis told reporters on Wednesday evening. “In such extreme situations, no one else is allowed to give orders.”

Evangelos Bournous, the mayor of the nearby Rafina area, which was hit by the wildfire before it spread to Mati, was not available for comment. He earlier told Alpha TV: “The firemen shouted ‘Leave!’, but this is not an official evacuation order.”

Firefighters contacted by Reuters said that the fire brigade oversees and advises local authorities, but evacuations are conducted by the authorities.

The 83-page civil protection plan states that if two municipalities are affected by the fire, then the regional authorities are tasked with ordering an evacuation.

Top Stories

Covid cases in Cyprus go over the 1000 mark-three today, one a Serbian football player

  Three coronavirus cases were reported in Cyprus today after 1699 tests and following two days of zeros. This means that the number goes up to...

Orange heat warning tomorrow, just one step from red alert-43+degrees

  The Met Office has issued an orange warning for tomorrow as temperatures are expected to reach or even surge beyond 43 degrees inland. One step...

Barcelona’s landmark Sagrada Familia reopens for key covid workers

  Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia basilica reopened today, giving frontline workers the chance to have the usually tourist-packed landmark to themselves in recognition of their efforts...

Apollon Serb football player positive to Covid following Belgrade return

  Serb football player Djordje Denic, currently playing for Limassol football club Apollon, tested positive to Covid-19, following his return from Belgrade. In a statement, the...

Catalonia curbs movement of 200,000 people after new coronavirus outbreak

  Spain’s north-eastern region of Catalonia enforced a new lockdown on more than 200,000 people, after several new outbreaks of the coronavirus were detected. Residents in...

Taste

Cyprus sprouts with cream and prosciutto

In a big, deep frying pan, fry the prosciutto in the olive oil, on medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the onion and garlic...

Pork burger with sundried tomatoes, mozzarella and anchovies

Mix all the ingredients together with the mince in a bowl, and combine well. Divide into 4 balls and form the burgers. Warm a griddle/pan...

Sheftalies

Wash the lamb cauls with plenty of cold water and let them settle in water and vinegar for a little while. Soak the bread crumbs...

Loukaniko Pitsilias – Pitsilia Sausage

Pitsilia sausage is produced in the Pitsilia region from pork minced meat that is “cooked” ( matured) in the dry red wine of the...