The Police investigates 600 accidents in case they had been deliberate while the Government works so that the fire does not affect tourism when it begins to recover from the covid
Greece faces “incalculable” natural and economic damage. It is the first appreciation that exhausted people make in the Aegean islands. Exhausted and distraught. Tired of sniffing smoke, brushing ash off her shoulders, and staring at the brutal end of her childhood landscapes. From their house. Of their businesses. “It is impossible to know yet the degree of destruction.” This is summarized by the provincial authorities of Euboea or Attica, environmentalists, neighbors and a tourism sector that this summer was looking for a way out of the harsh collapse of the coronavirus and today is witnessing the cutting of their hopes. As if the illusions were tree trunks in a Mediterranean burning in flames. “It is still early, this is not over,” argue the Euboea firefighters, for whom the fight against fire can be summed up in four words: “We poured water on lava.”
Only on this island, the second largest after Crete, local estimates suggest that 90% of the tourist infrastructure, orchards and businesses of its 200,000 neighbors have been devastated. Picturesque villages, one of their greatest attractions, suffer severe damage. Hundreds of houses have been consumed by fire with all their furniture and family photos inside. Catastrophes undo stories. And the one here has erased the memories and the past of thousands of inhabitants who have been evacuated by boat along with the tourists.
The destruction has been showing its teeth and biting Greece for eight days. And yet the fires continue. Most of them have been controlled, but others are still going ahead fueled by a heat wave with temperatures of 45 degrees that prevents the earth from cooling and parches the valleys. This Tuesday, one of the points of maximum risk was located over a town in the Peloponnese, Arcadia. The neighbors watered their houses with hoses and when everything became useless they evicted the villages. His fire started eight days ago in Olympia. The extinguishing services say that it has multiplied on so many fronts that they consider it out of control.
The mechanics of Greek fires have three strengths that make it a steamroller: the erratic behavior of the wind, changing in a matter of hours; a large thermal load on the surface that reinforces heat and generates constant turbulence; and the abundance of vegetation and trees. The pines are authentic transmitting antennas of fire and that is one of the factors why the National Observatory of Athens affirms that the nation is facing its greatest ecological catastrophe. It is fast and deadly. Some 65,000 hectares of forest reserves and parks have burned and the count is far from over.
While the firefighter Vasilis Filora, who died at age 38 when an electric pole fell on him, was buried this Tuesday in his hometown, the Hellenic Government continued to be involved in the controversy and began to realize the economic efforts that he will have to make to face the damage. . The scandal about its alleged ineffectiveness in the Euboea extinction efforts is there. Several neighbors are preparing to sue him. They maintain that he has not provided the necessary means either to rescue him or to save his property. The opposition also blames “incompetence” on Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s cabinet. His deputy minister of Civil Protection, Nikos Jardaliás, has placed the position at the disposal of the head of government.
The effects on visits
Some critics maintain that this is the reason that a fast financial plan has been designed that contemplates investments of 1,500 million euros and another 500 additional approved this Tuesday. In this way, the Executive affirms that it will be possible to begin as soon as possible to procure a roof for those who have lost it and to finance emergency works, including the reconstruction of roads.
However, the country has a long way to go to finish making numbers. The fires are still alive and the tourist season is in full swing. No one knows the effect that the claims will have on the sector, whose forecast is to recover this summer at least 50% of its usual income prior to the pandemic. The businessmen are aware that the flames have destroyed part of the infrastructure, banned the way to traditionally tourist areas – without going any further, in Athens, Olympia and the Peloponnese – and also “cause nuisance by smoke and ash”, as they complained this week in the Hellenic capital.
Greece has been the pioneer European country in post-covid tourism recovery. He promoted the health certificate before anyone else, ordered the vaccination of all tourist workers and created the so-called ‘islands-free’ of coronavirus, dozens of islets where everyone has been immunized as a hook to attract visitors. Disasters can open a crack in the project to reactivate a business that employs 25% of the population and in 2019 generated 18.2 billion euros.
As in a Greek tragedy, this one underlies a point of mystery. The fact that 586 fires started almost simultaneously in very distant areas of the country has raised suspicions in the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Police, who are investigating the possible intervention of a criminal organization.