Report on 2018 fires exposes public administration bureaucratic character and operational weaknesses
The findings of Tuesday’s report on the deadly fires that killed 100 people and destroyed parts of eastern Attica last July highlighted the complete lack of organization, coordination and efficiency in the country’s state services.
The three prosecutors that compiled the report concluded that, even without an evacuation plan, the victims could still have saved themselves if only the civil protection system worked even in the slightest.
“If the civil protection system was slightly functional and an information mechanism was activated to warn civilians of the areas under threat, they would have had time to get away before the fire or smoke got close,” said the report published on Tuesday.
Tellingly, the report said that the mayhem and confusion were so extreme that even senior ranking fire service officials did not know where the fire was, how far it had spread, who was in charge of the land forces on the ground, who was managing aerial operations or even if there was a fire in the first place.
The prosecutors rued that it was obvious there was no operation to speak of, considering that the main coordinating body was in the dark about the location and extent of the blaze.
Most of the blame for the shambolic reaction of state services was placed on the General Secretariat of Civil Protection, the fire department, regional and municipal authorities, as well as the Civil Protection Ministry led then by Nikos Toskas.
On Tuesday, charges of negligent arson, negligent manslaughter and grievous bodily harm through negligence were brought against 20 current and former state officials.
The suspects include Attica Regional Governor Rena Dourou, Marathon Mayor Ilias Psinakis, Rafina Mayor Evangelos Bournous, former fire service chief Sotiris Terzoudis, the current head of the fire service Vasilis Mattheopoulos – who was then deputy chief – and former general secretary for civil protection Yiannis Kapakis.
Charges have also been brought against the 65-year-old man who is believed to have started the blaze by allegedly burning wood outside his home in the Daou area of Mount Pendeli on July 23.