Greece fires: Prime minister apologises for failures in tackling more than 500 wildfires across country

‘We may have done what was humanly possible, but in many cases it was not enough’

Tom Batchelor
Tuesday 10 August 2021 18:53
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Related video: Emotional evacuees say ‘nothing’ left after wildfires engulf Greece’s Evia island

The Greek prime minister has apologised for failures in tackling the wildfires that have ravaged parts of the country, following criticism that firefighting efforts and equipment were woefully inadequate.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he was sorry for “any weaknesses” shown in addressing the crisis, which “blackens everyone's hearts”.

After fires devastated the island of Evia during Greece’s worst heatwave in decades, the prime minister used a televised press conference on Monday night to address the criticism and approve a €500m (£423m) budget to help with rebuilding efforts.

“These last few days have been among the hardest for our country in decades,” he said, putting the figure for the total number of fires in just the last few days at 586.

“We are dealing with a natural disaster of unprecedented dimensions,” Mr Mitsotakis added.

“We may have done what was humanly possible, but in many cases it was not enough.”

Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced funds to help rebuild affected areas

Criticism aimed at the government’s response to the fires has included claims officials were not sufficiently prepared to cope with the sheer scale of the wildfires.

Some have said Greece had too few firefighting aircraft, which left it to rely on offers of support from neighbouring countries.

Residents on Evia have also argued that evacuation orders were often premature, insisting that they could have stayed and helped the stretched firefighting forces save inhabited areas.

Firefighters from Serbia use a water hose to extinguish a forest fire near the village of Avgaria on Evia

In Athens, the main political opposition blamed the government for using climate change as an excuse to cover up deficiencies in its handling of the crisis.

“Climate change is, without doubt, an especially dangerous reality. However, it cannot be used as an excuse by the government because it ignored our warnings and those of scientists,” Alexis Tsipras, head of the left-wing Syriza party, said.

It came as a massive wildfire on the northern tip of Greece's second-largest island continued to burn on Tuesday.

The blaze, which has been burning since 3 August, has destroyed most of northern Evia and has led to dozens of villages being evacuated.

Several other wildfires are also burning in the country, with the most significant in the southern Peloponnese region.

Additional reporting by agencies

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