Greeks bought jets and warships – there was no money left for fire brigades

There has been a fire on Germany’s favorite Greek island since last Tuesday. The situation escalated on Saturday. Tens of thousands of tourists had to be evacuated. Holiday flights have been cancelled, hotels and beach bars have burned. Tourists spend the night in a kind of refugee accommodation in gymnasiums.

How could it come to this? While the Greek government is celebrating the evacuations and the lack of fatalities, the opposition is already beginning to criticize them. The left-wing Syriza pointed out that shortcomings in the organization of state measures were obvious. The left-wing party, which was defeated in the elections a month ago, smugly points out that the government’s announcement that it was prepared for fire collapsed like a house of cards.

Barrage of fire in Rhodes and Corfu: Greek fire brigade was saved broken

There is also tentative criticism on state television. The Mayor of Rhodes avoided a frontal attack on the government but said the fires could have been more easily extinguished in the first few days. But in the past week, the firefighters were concentrated on the Attica region around the Greek capital, which was also burning.

The Greek firefighting aircraft fleet is obsolete. The Canadair aviators have forty years of service under their belt. The fire department is poorly equipped. After the national bankruptcy of 2010, it was thinned out in terms of personnel and equipment for reasons of economy.

Later, the Mitsotakis government recruited thousands of new police officers and purchased hundreds of police vehicles rather than investing in fire and rescue services. Fighter planes have been purchased, F-35 fighters are on order. The Armed Forces upgrade program includes frigates and other warships. There was no money left for fire trucks with autonomous pumps.

Without private helpers, the catastrophe would be even more fatal

However, where there is a fire in the country, the electricity fails first – because all the lines are above ground. Without electricity for the pumps, the water supply then collapses.

The firefighters flown in from Romania show that there is another way. Technically up to date and trained with the most modern tactics, they look for water sources themselves and pump the extinguishing water out of the ground with generator power.

Only in view of the devastating fire around the capital was a billion-euro upgrade program for the fire brigade promised, too late for Rhodes and for Corfu, which has been on fire since Sunday. Without hundreds, even thousands of private helpers who provide vehicles, go into the fire even without protective clothing and take tourists with their boats from the beaches surrounded by fire, the outcome of the catastrophe would be even more fatal.

Will there be floods and landslides after the fires?

The danger to the climate posed by the forest fires also weighs heavily. Efthymis Lekkas, professor of dynamic tectonics, applied geology and natural disaster management at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, sounded the alarm about the wildfires last week.

“It was recently calculated that a rise of 0.5 degrees in particularly sensitive areas like the Mediterranean extends the duration of high temperatures by 30 days and the duration of a heat wave by five days. A forest fire increases the risk of flooding sevenfold, the risk of soil erosion fourfold, and the risk of landslides threefold, all of which contribute to the progression of desertification and, of course, further accelerating temperature rise. In other words, it’s a vicious cycle that keeps accelerating,” the professor explained.

The government has obviously failed here. The forest of Rhodes, burned decades ago, is once again fallow land. Experts expect that there will only be a visible recovery of nature on the burnt areas in 25 years. In just under forty years, with positive development, the forest can be expected to be restored to a level similar to that before the fire.

However, the damage to the image of Greece’s “heavy industry”, tourism, cannot be estimated. Who would want to travel to an island when there is an obvious lack of fire protection?

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