Fire in Attica
After the floods in Nikiti and the surrounding area, we thought that nothing else will upset us this summer, but something worse happened.
The fire in the vicinity of Athens took many lives, and many people came to grief.
The Greek people are incredibly solidary, not only when disasters happen to them, but also to other nations. From the very announcement of a catastrophic fire, they began to collect food and medical supplies, and within 24 hours it was announced that there was more than enough food donated.
Three days of national mourning in Greece is not enough to cover all human casualties, all destroyed families, starved animals, burned houses …
Here is how the Greek writer Stephanos Mitilineos explained how there were so many casualties in the fire that affected Greek summer resort Mati.
“When uncontrollable fire surrounded Mati on Monday afternoon, on July 23, the winds from the west sought to destroy everything. The flame swallowed everything in front of it, rushing at 70-100km an hour. There wasn’t a way of stopping this disaster, no plan could have intercepted it.
However, such great evil that befell us does not justify the death of so many innocent people, so many unjustly lost lives.
What happened? Hundreds of citizens tried to leave Mati by car, but they stuck in a creepy crowd in narrow streets that were built in 1960, which have been densely settled since 2000 without any plan, without any security measures. And it is not enough that the village was developing “fortunately” and “accidentally” among the pines, it did not have emergency exits. And so it became the trap of death.
While pine trees were bursting into flames, and houses and cars were turning into ashes in several minutes, panic emerged among people. Distraught citizens fled their houses, others were leaving their cars in panic heading towards the shore, to the only exit they had to avoid the creepy death.
In the village of Mati coast is not accessible from all sides. The coast is closed by hotels and houses. This is the result of the “development” from 1960 - that there is no free access to the coast. And suddenly, our fellow citizens faced the battle for bare life, for the lives of their children and their families. They jumped over fences, they ran through inaccessible parts to reach the sea.
The beach is discontinuous, hotels and houses that are literally in the sea interrupt it in many places, so people could not move left or right in order to get away from the fire, but they had to enter the unstable sea.
And so the nightmare of those who entered the sea did not end, they had to be rescued by boats. Boats and ships that have arrived started rescuing people at 6:00 pm. They could not get close to the coast, because there was no approach to it due to the rocks and because people in the boats were being “fried” by the fire.
The flames and the wind created smoke in the atmosphere that did not allow boats to approach the coast more than 50 m.
The exhausted and scared citizens had to swim to the boats. Injured, elderly citizens, children, women were falling into the sea in order to arrive to the boats that were waiting for them, all the way fighting the waves. Those who caught fire and did not find the way to the beach were thrown from the rocks to death.
It’s heard on TV that Mati does not exist anymore. It’s true. But there is another bigger truth: Mati, in the way it was made, in the way it was built, was not supposed to exist. From the beginning it was wrong, as the resort began to exist in 1960 under the non-existent standards of the Greek regime and since 2000 it has been settled densely.
All these years, nobody asked: In the event of a fire in this place, among the pines, without the exit, what will we do?
And of course, the first ones that should think about it are the local authorities. People who live in the village and know it better than anyone else. Obviously, none of them wondered what would happen if the fire caught Mati or, to be precise, what would happen if the fire reached Mati. And it is known that the area is susceptible to fire, BUT only one is fateful.
The ancient Greeks called the pine “the damn tree” and did not allow planting them in cities. Because they knew that the pines were like torches.
We should ask ourselves how we, today’s Greeks, have become convinced that it is safe to live among the pine trees.
Today we are sorry for dozens of deceased, unjustly deceased people. When sorrow and national pain of the evil that befell us go by, we have one obligation: not to allow the existence of places like Mati. Not in Attica, nor anywhere else.
Let there never exist such death traps”
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