The only thing necessary for the persistence of evil is for enough good people to do nothing

Raging Wildfires

It is absolutely unbelievable.

Wildfires are raging all across Attiki and are threatening to reach Athens. People are being evacuated. Houses are burning. The children’s hospital in Pendeli has been evacuated and is surrounded by flames. I have close friends in three of the critical areas. We have been on the phone back and forth. They are all OK.

UPDATE: The fires reached the house of a friend of mine. They managed to stop it reaching theirs but the next door house is gone. They will evacuate if it gets worse again but at the moment they are having to stay around to save their home themselves. They are all OK for now.

UPDATE 2: Another friend is waiting to hear if she and her family will be told to evacuate…

UPDATE 3: The friend mentioned above has now evacuated.

UPDATE 4: I just spoke to my friend (update 1). He told me that most of the surrounding houses in the village are gone. His and four others are the only ones that survived unscathed. It’s heartbreaking. The other families in the area have lost everything. it’s not just their homes, it’s their possessions. The small but priceless things that they have collected over a lifetime. Their memories. I can’t imagine how it must feel to have lost all your family photographs. Pictures of your childhood, your family, your friends, events that have shaped your life… it’s simply heartbreaking.

I will update you as I hear more…

Follow updates on Twitter using #grfires

It’s just criminal what is happening.There are not enough fire engines, firefighters, planes, helicopters… not enough of anything. What happened to the promises made two years ago ? Where are the firebreaks ? Where are the new planes? Why has it taken the government two days to declare a state of emergency so that Greece can get help from other countries ? We have about three hours of flying time left (firefighting planes can’t function in the dark) and then the residents of these areas are on the own with the few professionals they are “lucky” enough to have nearby.

It’s tragic and unbelievable.

I am sitting here shaking with rage at the lack of foresight the authorities have shown and at the downright lies that people were told after the huge wildfires in 2007.

It’s disgusting.

And you know what’s even more disgusting ? No matter how this all turns out. No matter how many injuries and even deaths. No matter how many homes and businesses are burned.

Absolutely NOTHING will be done to prevent this happening again.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

24 Comments

  1. August 23, 2009    

    It is indeed a tragedy that this happens year after year. I know it’s no consolation to the people who have lost their homes but the west coast of Canada and California experience the same problems. Many houses were lost this summer. There never seems to be enough firefighting equipment available. I hope they get things under control soon and no one looses their lives…ciao

  2. Xenos
    August 23, 2009    

    Well, for once we can all sympathise with the Greek people, for their incompetent and corrupted government. The forest fire policy is as much a disaster as the immigration policy.

  3. DinglyDong
    August 24, 2009    

    Are your friends’ houses ??????????

  4. August 24, 2009    

    FYI DinglyDong, My friends and their families have been living in their homes for generations and their houses are legal. They are all OK but very shaken and extremely worried…thanks for asking !

  5. August 24, 2009    

    and just to save anyone else asking (please note, people, I can see your IP addresses)… they are Greek, of average income and they are my personal close friends.

  6. EllasDevil
    August 24, 2009    

    Hey Diva,

    I’m in Egypt and am in constant contact with my folks. They were ready to evacuate yesterday.

  7. August 24, 2009    

    @EllasDevil

    Hope your family are all OK ? My thoughts are with them and all who are affected by these fires.

  8. Travlos Konstantinos
    August 25, 2009    

    Terrible just terrible. And pretty incompetent of the government. I voted for them and now curse my hand. They had a whole year to prepare and take measures and they failed.

    Unfortunately this will go on until the ktimatologio is made. Ante na telionoume kai me auto.

  9. Amaliada
    August 25, 2009    

    I read in the Kathimerini (English edition, of course) today that the government is going to divert some of the money that they didn’t pay to the victims of fire on the Peloponnese in 2007 to the victims of this year’s fires.

    Makes you want to say WTF? People here on the Peloponnese still do not have homes and are waiting for assistance. At least now they’ll know the financial assistance from the government isn’t coming.

  10. kat
    August 27, 2009    

    Amaliada, Petros Molviatis who is in charge of the 2007 fund insists it isn’t true. I’m getting my information from Eleftherotypia. No matter, it’s proof that the money was never dispersed to people who need it, and we can expect the govt to keep making promises it won’t keep. Period.

  11. August 29, 2009    

    it always happens for so many places…why do people don’t take care of the things that can cause fire???oh common….well,,, let us all pray for those people who are affected of the wildfire…specially those who lost their homes…

  12. Stassa
    August 29, 2009    

    DeviousDiva, I’m afraid this time you are making a mistake and listening to the news and their dramatic misrepresentation of the situation. The gorvernment’s action or inaction against the wildfires is irrelevant in this case, because there is simply nothing that can stop wildfires from erupting in pine forests, in Greece, as in Italy, Spain, California (not sure what the wildfires burned there) and so on. Those fires have been blamed on arsonists time and again, but the fact is that it’s a natural part of the life cycle of pine forests. It’s how the forest replenishes itself, apparently. In fact, leaving the destruction of peoples’ properites aside, wildfires are a good sign: it means there is still forest to be burned. The urban sprawl hasn’t englufed it yet (despite the best efforts of the oikopedofagoi).

    Case in point: the same parts of the mountain that burned this time, had also burned some 15 years ago- I remember because I was there when the whole mountain burned to a crisp, from Dionysos to Pallini and from Nea Pendeli to Marathonas. I think it was in ’95, there were back-to-back wildfires on Pendeli for a few years and I don’t remember which one was the big one. For years you could see the destruction. Then it turned green again. Hopefully, it will have the chance to do so this time too.

    Anyway, I’ve been evacutated or lived in a house that was in the path of wildfires at least five or six times in my life. Wildfires in Greece are a natural disaster and there is nothing to be done to avoid them- just like earthquakes, you can’t predict them and you can’t prevent them. Some of the damage can be minimised but it really depends on the magnitude. This time, the reports talked of gale-force winds that blew constantly. You can’t stop the wind any more that you can stop the fire. Btw, like others, I’ve fought fires, with my hands. There’s nothing you can do.

    Except blame the government and so on. But the governments change and the wildfires burn different countries all the time. So there’s a flaw in that logic: “it’s the government’s fault”. It’s nobody’s fault. Sometimes things just die.

  13. August 30, 2009    

    Yes Diva, sadly you are right, a pilot died. I read it in Ekathimerini…ciao

  14. August 30, 2009    

    @ Stassa
    Sorry that this reply is out of anger or that it is just too late (it’s 2.30am) and I am tired. I was here this year and the fires affected people I know and love. I have been here for 15 years so I KNOW that wildfires (They are called wildfires for a reason) occur every year. The thing is…. two years ago the government promised some protection for people. Including insurance, new water planes,firebreaks and a clampdown on illegal development. Sadly, it took the government THREE DAYS (while my friends were fighting for their homes) to do ANYTHING AT ALL. Once the state of emergency was called, the fires were put out and we returned to some sense of normalcy. Yes, wildfires are natural and they occur with alarming frequency. But to leave people to battle blazes by themselves and then offer them no compensation….is criminal. Your statement of “Sometimes things just die” is heartbreaking. Fortunately, no-one died in this latest outbreak (there was a pilot I think but I have no verification yet. Anone? Sorry, I am not online so much these days) but 80+ people died two years ago. Surely, their lives meant something? The only thing that you can accuse me of (in all seriousness) is that I didn’t take the fires of two years ago more seriously because I didn’t know anyone involved! My bad but…

  15. Xenos
    August 30, 2009    

    Stassa: you are a typical fatalistic Greek. Of course, natural disasters like forest fire are a real problem the world over. The fact is, that if you don’t make any attempt at all to deal with them, then they will definitely be much worse.

    My understanding is that there are several issues of complete neglect of government policy:
    (1) No significant expenditure on planes or fire engines since 2007
    (2) No attempt to train conscripted military to help with fire fighting (instead of this childish pretence that they are going to defend Greece against invading armies from Turkey etc)
    (3) Heavily delayed mobilisation of resources available, so that the fire had already destroyed massive areas before the services got there
    (4) Reliance on the free help of the Red Cross to fight the fire
    (5) Delayed requests for help from other countries for aircraft (as in point 3)
    (6) I am less sure about this one, but I understood Greek news reports as saying that the original fire in a gulley was left to burn because the authorities thought it would not spread and was too much trouble to deal with. If that’s true, then we can add professional incompetence of the fire authority to the list…

  16. Stassa
    August 30, 2009    

    DeviousDiva,

    Sorry that this is going to be a huge post. I hope you find the time to skim through it. Now, I understand your anger and your sympathy for your friends’ plight, and I am not forgetting that people died in the fires last year. But there are two things to consider here.

    First, (once more) wildfires in Greece cannot be predicted and cannot be prevented. We know a few risk factors, like high tempeature and strong winds etc and the fire service is on alert when they apply. The only way for a location to not burn is to make sure it has no trees. If people don’t want their houses to burn, they must either a) build them away from the forests or b) deforest the areas around their communities and keep them deforested. At least then the fires will not threaten their properties.

    Second, there is the reaction to the fires: on one hand that of the government and on the other hand that of the citizens.

    What the government can do about the fires is a) work to minimise the damage done and b) compensate the victims. In the latter, b) successive Greek governments have failed utterly.

    In a) though, they haven’t. I drew a parallel with earthquakes. In 1985 there was a big shake in Attica and since then every new house built is quake-resistant (“????????????”), according to international regulations. This is because laws were put in place to ensure you can’t get a building permit if the building doesn’t conform to the regulations. In the next big quake we had, in 1999, the buildings that collapsed were either old or a contractor had broken the law. So mechanisms were put into place to minimise damage from quakes. Nobody blames the government for them.

    Similar mechanisms have been put into place to deal with fires: it is illegal to build in forest. However, people break those laws all the time. Yes, not every community striken by fire is illegally built, though some were legalised after they were built. Some were there from Ottoman times. However, for all those communities, the protection of their property is their own responsibility. Government in Greece is decentralised. The role of central government is to aprove funding to suppor the communities’ plans. So it’s not Karamanli’s fault or Papanderou’s fault that Marathonas burned. If there is blame to apportion, that’s for the mayors and their councils to shoulder. And if people are living in houses with wooden roofs over their verandas and surrounded by pine trees, then they can’t even blame the councils. So, yeah, the government is doing something but in this case it’s working at cross-purposes with the people.

    As about the citizens reaction, our common cries of outrage are “?? ????? ? ?????????;” and “??? ??????? ??????!”. Those are loud enough and persistent enough even for our friend Xenos to pick up on and try to use against us. But then 90% of us still go and vote for the same governments we blame. So maybe people are getting compensated for their losses, just indirectly. And maybe they are satisfied with their government but they blame it anyway because they need to have someone to vent their anger and furstration on. And it’s always easier and less traumatic to blame it all on someone else, than accept your portion of the blame and take responsibility for your own shortcomings, even as you criticise those of others.

    You know, when I was a kid I actually went into the forest and hugged the damned trees? I was a literal treehugger before I knew what treehuggers were. Then I grew up, in my (completely illegal) house in the woods and then the woods burned down and it took me, oh, some fifteen years to come to terms with the whole thing and even speak about it. And I’m not angry anymore. Anger is just a survival mechanism, it helps you get through the inevitable trauma of loss. But beyond a point it’s sterile and fake and it leads nowhere. You can’t rage and rant forever. Eventually you must get up and go on with life. And you know what? We learn- the knowledge that pine forests will inevitably burn was never discussed ten, even five years ago, we blamed it all on arsonists or Turkish agents, or the anarchists. Nowadays we are beginning to speak the big secret out in the open. In ten years time we’ll figure out what to do about it. There is progress. Thank your anthropomorphic personification of choice for that and do what you can to bring it about.

  17. Xenos
    August 31, 2009    

    Stassa. you didn’t respond to a single one of my points. Again, a typically Greek way of arguing. And your crap about decentralised government is just a joke. Greece is the most centralised state in the whole of the EU; Germany is decentralised, Spain and Italy also to some extent, along with Austria.

    The fact is that the Greek state cannot do anything right. Full stop.

  18. Stassa
    August 31, 2009    

    Xenos, I’m kind of having a conversation here, with another adult, if you don’t mind.

  19. Xenos
    August 31, 2009    

    Yet another typical Greek trick to avoid dealing with real issues. When will you people learn to grow up?

  20. September 3, 2009    

    Nothing will change until a child of Karamanlis or Papandreou dies in one of these fires. Then see how quickly they move. Until then, these people and their houses just exist in the imagination of the Greek politicians. I just got back from holiday in Tunisia, and was left scratching my head as to why Tunisia can manage to clear fire tracks every few hundred metres on all the mountains and place resevoirs close by, but Greece can’t.

  21. September 3, 2009    

    oh and ps. my husband who is Greek was so pissed off when he saw the fires on the news that he called his friends from Tunisia and told them about Tunisia’s fire prevention arrangements. They couldn’t believe it either. Greece is like a family with extremely disfunctional and careless parents – the children are raising themselves. It’s like the wild west! Greece deserves better than this!

  22. Xenos
    September 4, 2009    

    bollybutton: the problem with Greece (not only with fires) is that there is no patriotism and an excess of nationalism. So, when a foreigner (or the EU) actually tries to help, the arrogant peasant nationalism kicks in, and the Greeks shout abusive remarks at us. In the meantime, the rich and political class of Greece are busy stealing money and burning down the forests, while the peasants are accusing Turks and others…

    There is nothing you can do to help stupid arrogant people, Stassa is a good example of this arrogance, attacking me and others for our real contributions to Greece, simply because we dont accept their nationalistic crap and are not Greek anyway.

    The solution? Let Greece burn, leave the Greeks to their dirt and corruption. The economy survives on money-laundering and tourism, but they will stop soon. Across the Balkans and Middle East, the stable countries will soon overtake Greece for quality of life and civilised behaviour: they have actually achieved it in some areas, already.

  23. greg
    December 14, 2010    

    You are reffering to the pendeli fires but since greeks is a forgeting nation let me remind you pendeli disasters from 1978 till today
    The first major one was indeed in 1978 burning north east from rafina ton nea makri to arathonas 25000 to 30000 forest of pines acres burned. Since then the disasters came year after year
    1981: about 15000 acres at south west of pendeli from kifissia to marousi – kokkinaras – melissia till nea pendeli .. reeforestation begun
    1982: 35000 acres at north to north east from ekali – stamata -dionysos to rapentosa til marathon and pikermi (huge disaster reforestation begun the following years) 2 dead soldiers
    1986: 3000 acres from dionysos to stamata – (reforestation begun)
    1990: 4000 acres in rodopoli dionysos and stamata
    1993: 10000 acres from agios stefanos to marathonas and stamata till kiourka
    1993: 3000 acres in drafi (this is the a new community where this should be definately a national park in south east pendeli place spared till that year by fires)
    1995: 75000 acres of pine forests – (whole east pendleli burned from dionysos to rapentosa – nea makri – voutsas- kallitexnoupoli- pikermi – pallini – gerakas – ntrafi – palia pendeli a real hell .. all reforestations from 1982 fire were destroyed all beauty in daou pendeli to black maurinora and drafi was gone
    1998: 90000 acres (whole east pendeli burned again from koukounari stamatas to nea makri to rapentosa to pikermi.. to nea pendleli everything went up in flames again everything including places hit by 1995 destruction one person died all reforestions in dionysos went up in flames…in coming years again reforestation begun again
    2000: 1500 acres just above nea pendeli
    2005: 10000 acres from rafina to kallitexnoupoli close to mati
    2007: (horrible year) 8000 acres all reforestations in south west pendeli were gone again from politia to melissia . kokkinaras and nea pendeli was again destroyed..again another reforestation
    2009: worst fire to hit attica of all times …210.000 acres destroyed all east and north east of attica including 2/3 of pendeli was destroyed… fire begun in grammatico 40 km north east of attica reached in no time in varnavas and marathon destroyed the beautiful place of lake marathon and surrounding areas and then hit again pendeli from drosia close to ekali to dionysos – stamata – agios stafenos – rodopoli – rapentosa – marathonas – nea makri – pikermi – ntrafi – palia pendeli – nea pendeli -pallini – gerakas and right … as you guessed again all new plantations were again destroyed. How can a fire break 40 km north east and in one day later you can see it from your window toping whole pendeli mountains facing athens … this question will never be answered…

    lets face it soil in pendeli is very poor and we dont have money for another… reforestation… as there is crisis as everyone knows…
    this is the true story …a sad one ..look in neswpapers if you think i exxagerate even the envirimental services tend to forget

  24. Magnolia
    December 24, 2010    

    This is terrible realy. Many people killed in this horible fire.

LEAVE A COMMENT HERE