New focus for addressing floods and wildfires in Greece

Greek officials presented  two updated comprehensive plans for addressing floods and wildfire emergencies in order to prevent in the future the tragedies which resulted in more than 100 victims and extensive material and environmental disasters in recent years.

A total of 664 entities of the central, regional and local administration in Greece have already received the updated plans and the message to improve communication and act together to be better prepared in times of crises, Civil Protection Secretary-General Nikos Hardalias said at a press briefing.

The two plans have the code names Dardanos and Iolaos, two heroes in ancient Greek mythology, whose stories teach that teamwork leads to success.

Dardanos, a son of Zeus, the father of gods in mythology, survived a great flood on Samothrace island where he had traveled with his brother, while Iolaos, an aide of Heracles, helped the hero in some of his Labors, he explained.

Government spokesperson Stelios Petsas said that “The prompt prevention and effective management of damages caused by emergency natural phenomena, like wildfires and floods, are at the epicenter of our planning.”

Hardalias added: “We should manage with rationality whatever is linked to the climate crisis, because it is not something that we expect in the future, but is already here now, in our country and the entire world.”

“We are monitoring it and we are trying to coordinate and update procedures so that during the unfolding crisis, the time of the big battle, no one can claim that they do not know what to do,”Hardalias said, pointing out the gaps and overlapping responsibilities in outdated previous plans.

The most recent national plan to deal with wildfires was drafted in 2013, he said.

In July 2018, more than 100 people lost their lives when a seaside resort, some 30 kilometers east of Athens was scorched down by a wildfire.

In November 2017, flash floods in western Attica resulted in 24 casualties.

In both cases, several former officials on the central, regional and local levels have been charged with criminal negligence for the lack of prevention measures and coordination during emergencies.

“Today everybody, whether they come from the technical department of a regional government or municipality or the central administration,knows exactly what kind of works they should proceed in, under which framework and which are their responsibilities,” said Phoebos Theodorou, the Civil Protection General Secretariat’s director for planning and addressing emergency needs.

“The goal of the plan is the immediate and coordinated response of all organizations on the central, regional and local level,” he said.