Greece PM Alexis Tsipras assumes responsibility for deadly fires | News | DW | 27.07.2018
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Greece PM Alexis Tsipras assumes responsibility for deadly fires

After three days of national mourning, Alexis Tsipras is facing condemnation from the opposition for his government's response. At least 87 people perished in some of Europe's worst wildfires.

In comments to a Cabinet meeting on Friday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras assumed "political responsibility" for the devastating wildfires that killed at least 87 this week.

Opposition politicians had slammed Tsipras for failing to apologize for the disaster east of the capital, Athens, after the government blamed the fires on arson.

Opposition party New Democracy criticized the arson claim, saying in a statement: "This deplorable spectacle of rejecting any responsibility can only provoke anger."

It raised concerns over the number of firefighters available and evacuation procedures.

The opposition Socialist party called for the government to resign, while opposition daily Ta Nea ran a front-page image of government ministers with the headline: "Incompetent provocateurs."

Read more: Greece fires: Arson suspected in devastating blaze

Full responsibility

Tsipras said he was conflicted over whether the authorities had responded correctly to the fires.

"I have called you here today first of all to take full political responsibility for this tragedy in front of my Cabinet and the Greek people," he told ministers in a televised meeting.

"I won't hide that I am overwhelmed by mixed feelings right now ... Pain, devastation for the human lives unexpectedly and unfairly lost. But also anguish at whether we acted correctly in everything we did."

The government has announced a €40 million ($47 million) relief fund and created a national plan to tackle decades of unauthorized construction and to reform and upgrade the Civil Protection Service "to guarantee ... that there will be no more tragedies."

Families of victims will receive a one-off €10,000 payment, while their spouses and near relatives were also offered public-sector jobs.

But despite this, survivors have slammed the government.

Read more: EU states join forces to fight deadly wildfires across Europe

Watch video 03:11

Aid for Greece - EU commissioner Christos Stylianides

Left to God's mercy

"They left us alone to burn like mice," Chryssa, one of the survivors in Mati, told Skai television. "No one came here to apologize, to submit his resignation, no one."

Defense Minister Panos Kammenos was heckled as he visited the coastal region of Mati, where most of the fatalities occurred. "You left us to God's mercy, there's nothing left," shouted one resident.

Tsipras is facing increasing pressure as his party trails New Democracy in opinion polls, while he attempts to finally extricate Greece from years of bailouts.

aw/tj (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

 

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