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Attica Fires Day Three

August 24, 2009

Though blazes are still threatening parts of eastern Attica and the northern borders of Athens, some have receded as winds have calmed, fire brigade officials said today.

As for Athens News, two of our reporters went to check out the scene for themselves. One (@JungleVision) just called the office saying the situation seemed more under control near Grammatiko, Varnavas and Marathon, and that the wind has calmed. Surprisingly, he said, many homes he saw remained undamaged, though they were ringed by scorched earth.

As the battle against the flames seems to be winding down, the government is getting raked over the coals for what some say was a slow response in the first place.
“It is finished” read the headline of the center-left newspaper Eleftherotypia, while Ethnos proclaimed “A crime with no excuses” on its front page.
According to the Athens News Agency, George Papaconstantinou, the spokesperson of main opposition party PASOK, said on Monday, “We have exercised criticism in the past … such as the criticism we have exercised over the mishaps of 2007, ones that have not become lessons, is also known. However, this discussion must not, and cannot, open now.”
There must be solidarity with those struggling to contain the fires, he said, declining to discuss KKE’s statement that the origin of the fires was “organised arson”.
KKE leader Aleka Papariga said fire-fighting infrastructure needs to be vastly improved, including adding more firefighting aircraft. The leader of far-right party Popular Orthodox Rally, Giorgos Karatzaferis, said the government didn’t learn from the devastating fires in 2007.
According to the AP, Finance minister Yiannis Papathanassiou responded, “This is not the time for criticism under these tragic conditions. We are fighting a difficult fight.”
For now, firefighters continue to battle the remaining fronts, after working almost non-stop for the past few days. Water-dropping planes from Italy and France have joined in, as well as a crew from Cyprus. It is estimated that as of now 37,000 acres or 15,000 hectares have burned, leaving thousands homeless.

Here is an interesting opinion piece from The Guardian about political effects of the fires, namely Karamanlis’ uncertain future as prime minister. The piece is by Matina Stevis, who is editor-in-chief of City Press and whose parents live in Dionysos.

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