Greece To Revamp Disaster Unit As Fire Toll Hits 93

Greek PM, Alexis Tsipras

 

Embattled Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Thursday vowed to create a new national disaster unit as the death toll from last month’s deadliest-ever wildfires rose to 93.

“What’s important today is to objectively investigate the causes of the tragedy, and take all necessary measures so that it does not happen again,” Tsipras said in a televised speech as he announced a 500-million-euro ($578-million) revamp backed by European support funds.

“I am determined to do that,” he said.

Tsipras’ government has been severely criticised over its response to the July 23 wildfire in the coastal resort of Mati, the deadliest in Greek history.

The disaster has been followed by infighting between the police and the fire brigade, who initially insisted that the state response had been well-managed and blamed the high death toll on winds of up to 120 kilometres (75 miles) an hour.

Local residents received no warning and instead of being sent away from the fire zone, many passing drivers were mistakenly diverted into its path and died trapped in Mati’s narrow streets.

It later emerged that the police had failed to properly seal off the area because the fire brigade had not alerted them to the location and size of the fire.

And survivors fleeing the flames with just the clothes on their backs said they were left unaided on beaches for hours, where many died of burns and smoke inhalation.

The death toll rose to 93 on Thursday after two more people died in hospital.

The latest casualty was a 78-year-old woman, state TV ERT said. An 83-year-old man died on Wednesday.

Another 34 people are still hospitalised after the July 23 wildfire in Mati, six of them in critical condition.

Four senior officials including the minister responsible for the police and the heads of the police and fire brigade have been removed from their posts.

Earlier Thursday, a list compiled by the civil protection authority said the victims included 44 women — now 45 — 35 men, 11 children and two still-unidentified persons.

Tsipras on Thursday said he had approached a senior forest research scientist at the Max Planck Society to head an independent investigation into the causes of the fire, and recommend courses of action.

“Nothing can be forgotten, nothing should be covered up,” he said.

Earlier this week the PM said about 3,200 illegal buildings blocking access to roads, flood channels and the coast in the greater Attica region would be demolished.

A Greek judicial investigation into possible faults by state officials is also under way.

The relatives of two people who perished in the fires have also sued the authorities for negligence and exposure to danger.

AFP

Greece To End Illegal Building ‘Chaos’ After Fire Disaster

Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras                                                                                       Credit: AFP

 

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday vowed to end decades of illegal building “chaos” which he blamed for contributing to devastating fires last month that claimed scores of lives.

Tsipras’ government has been severely criticised over its response to the July 23 wildfire in the coastal resort of Mati that claimed 91 lives, making it the deadliest fire disaster in Greek history.

“Illegal building chaos that threatens human lives can no longer be tolerated,” Tsipras said after a meeting with ministers and regional administrators.

“Whatever destroys forests and beaches, whatever represents a danger will be torn down,” he said. “It is our duty to our dead, but more so towards the living.”

Four senior officials including the minister responsible for the police and the heads of the police and fire brigade have been removed, days after claiming that the state’s response to the emergency had been well-managed.

The government had insisted that with winds blowing at speeds of up to 120 kilometers (75 miles) an hour, there was little time to mount an effective evacuation.

It later emerged that the police had failed to properly seal away the area because the fire brigade had not alerted them to the location and size of the fire.

As a result, many drivers were inadvertently diverted into Mati’s narrow streets and trapped.

Residents fleeing the flames with just the clothes on their backs were also left unaided on the beaches for hours.

Officials now insist that victims would have found it easier to escape if the area had not been so densely built, often in violation of planning laws.

Tsipras said on Tuesday that about 3,200 illegal buildings blocking access to roads, flood channels and the coast in the greater Attica region would be demolished.

A judicial investigation into possible faults by state officials is underway.

The relatives of two people who perished in the fires have also sued the authorities for negligence and exposure to danger.

In addition to the dead, 36 people are still hospitalised, six of them in critical condition.

AFP

Greek PM Tsipras Visits Scene Of Wildfire Disaster

Greek PM, Alexis Tsipras

 

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Monday paid his first visit to the area ravaged by the country’s worst ever wildfires as anger mounts over his government’s response to the disaster that left scores of people dead.

His trip was not announced beforehand in what local media said was a bid to avoid protests by residents of the hard-hit seaside villages east of Athens — Mati and Rafina.

Tsipras met the region’s local authorities and fire brigade officials for about an hour, the brief official statement said.

His government has faced mounting criticism as residents battle to resume their lives with the help of the authorities and volunteers.

The fires struck the coastal villages popular with holidaymakers on July 23 and burned with such ferocity that most people fled to the safety of the sea with just the clothes on their backs.

The death toll rose to 91 on Sunday and another 25 people remain missing, but many may be among 28 victims whose bodies are being examined by forensic pathologists and have not been identified, local authorities said.

Tsipras has said he assumed “political responsibility” for the tragedy as a bitter debate rages over who was to blame.

On Sunday, the rightwing and centrist opposition accused the government of initially trying to hide the loss of human life.

The government has said there were indications that arson was involved and an investigation has been opened.

Experts have said that a mix of poor urban planning, including a lack of proper access routes and the construction of too many buildings next to combustible forest areas contributed to what were Europe’s worst wildfires this century.

A vigil for the victims will be held outside parliament in Athens later on Monday.

AFP

Greece Election: Syriza Party Wins

Alexis Tsipras- leader of syriza partyGreece’s left-wing Syriza Party has won its second general election in less than nine months.

Leader of the Party, Alexis Tsipras, said that Greeks face a difficult road and recovery from the financial crisis that has engulfed the country in recent time.

Syriza won just over 35%, slightly down on its previous result while Conservative New Democracy won 28%.

Still short of a majority, Syriza is expected to form a coalition with the Nationalist Independent Greeks.

Sunday’s snap election was called after Syriza lost its majority in August. This followed the signing of an unpopular new financial bailout deal with international creditors.

Critics wondered whether it was worth holding a contest which left Greece with the same government as before. But Syriza’s leader, Alexis Tsipras, is now in a stronger position, his decision to accept austerity measures in return for bailout cash apparently vindicated by the result.

Yet celebrations have been muted with hundreds not thousands gathering to sing, dance and wave flags. The country has tougher times ahead; tax rises, perhaps further cuts to wages and benefits.

Before the election, Tsipras said that he had put his country above his party, adding that had he not agreed to the three-year bailout, Greece would probably have had to leave the Eurozone.

Greece Crisis: Syriza Rebels To Form New Party

Panagiotis Lafazanis on Syriza's new PartyRebels from Greece’s governing left-wing Syriza are to break away and form a new party.

Prime Minister and Syriza Leader, Alexis Tsipras, stood down on Thursday, paving the way for new elections.

The move came after he lost the support of many of his own MPs in a vote on the country’s new bailout with European creditors earlier this month.

Greek media reports said that 25 rebel Syriza MPs would join the new party, called Laiki Enotita (Popular Unity).

The party would be led by former Energy Minister, Panagiotis Lafazanis, who was strongly opposed to the bailout deal, reports said.

The Syriza Labour Minister, George Katrougalos, said that the government needed to “reconfirm its mandate” to implement the third Greek bailout and that the party is “crippled by a number of dissident Mps”.

“This is the essence of democracy, we do not have any problem to ask the people. We do not want to govern against the popular will,” he said, adding that Tspiras and his government were “confident in rightness of our policies and the maturity of the Greek electorate”.

On Friday, the Head of Conservative, New Democracy Party, Vangelis Meimarakis, met with Greece’s President and would  be given three days to form a government.

Observers, however, said that he does not have enough support and elections would be called.

German MPs Debate Bailout Over Greece Dept Crisis

greece-bailoutGerman MPs have started debating a motion on whether to allow negotiations on Greece’s €86bn (£60bn) bailout deal.

Germany is one of several Eurozone states that must Approve the bailout before the rescue deal can go Ahead.

Opening the debate, Chancellor Angela Merkel warned of “predictable chaos” if deputies did not back the plan.

The deal is expected to be passed despite opposition from the left and some members of her conservative party.

Greek MPs have already voted in favour of hard-hitting austerity measures required for a third bailout deal.

On Thursday, the European Central Bank (ECB) raised the level of emergency funding available. This has paved the way for Greek banks, which shut nearly three weeks ago, to reopen on Monday.

But credit controls limiting cash withdrawals to €60 a day would only be eased gradually.

Eurozone ministers have also agreed a €7bn bridging loan from an EU-wide fund to keep finances afloat.

Chancellor Merkel told MPs ahead of Friday’s vote that the deal was hard for all sides, but said it was the “last” attempt to resolve the crisis.

“We would be grossly negligent, indeed acting irresponsibly if we did not at least try this path,” she said.

A number of Eurozone countries require parliamentary approval to go ahead with bailout talks, including Austria, which is also voting on Friday. Both the French and Finnish parliaments have already backed the deal.

Meanwhile, there have been fresh calls for Greek debt relief measures from International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde, echoing a call from Greek PM, Alexis Tsipras.

Eurozone Leaders, Greece Agree On Third Bailout

Eurozone leaders on GreeceEurozone leaders have sealed an agreement with Greece over a third bailout after long-winded talks at an emergency meeting.

The development was revealed on twitter by the Chairman of the European Union, Donal Tusk, on Monday.

“Euro summit has unanimously reached agreement. All ready to go for ESM program for Greece with serious reforms and financial support,” Tusk said, referring to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) bailout fund.

The BBC quoted him as saying that the EU leaders agreed “in principle” on negotiations for the bailout, “which in other words means continued support for Greece”.

In the meantime, the Eurozone had earlier said Greece did not present any concrete proposals to request for a new bailout.

However, Greece’s Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, said that after a “tough battle”, Greece had secured a “growth package” of €35bn (£25bn), and won debt restructuring.

Subsequent to the agreement, the country will on Wednesday, need to pass reforms demanded by the Eurozone.

Greece Has Not Presented Any Concrete Proposals – Eurozone

GreeceThe Eurozone says Greece has not presented any concrete proposals to request for a new bailout.

The union’s statement is coming after the ballots were counted as Greece voters rejected the terms of an international bailout in a poll with 61% “no”, against 38% “yes”.

In the meantime, Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, said Greeks made a “brave choice” in voting to reject the terms, despite the European officials’ caution that the debt crisis could see the country ejected from the Eurozone.

In another development, Greece’s Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, who often clashed with creditors also resigned.

However, Greece made a presentation earlier on Tuesday to request for a new bailout, but nothing was put on paper.

The country’s new Finance Minister, had been expected to draft a new letter requesting for European stability mechanism support.

The Minister is also expected to present proposals from the Greek side on what the substance would look like, so leaders could reach an agreement.

Greek PM Announces Capital Control To Prevent Banks’ Failure

Greek PM Announces Capital Control To Prevent Banks' FailureGreece’s Prime Minister (PM), Alexis Tsipras, has solemnly announced capital controls to prevent Greek banks from collapsing under the weight of mass withdrawals.

The PM made the declaration in a televised address on Sunday night, after a breakdown in talks between Athens and its creditors plunged the country deep into crisis.

In another development, European leaders had gathered for an emergency summit in Brussels that could break the deadlock around the debt crisis facing Greece.

The Greek Prime Minister set out new proposals to try and prevent a default on a 1.6 billion Euros ($1.77 billion) International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan.

However, Greeks woke up on Monday to shuttered banks, closed cash machines and a climate of rumours and conspiracy theories, sequel to Tsipras’ pronouncement.

The country has less than 48 hours to pay back IMF loans and a default would set in train events that could lead to the country’s exit from the euro currency alliance.

Greece Debt Crisis: EU Leaders Gather For Critical Summit

greeceEuropean leaders are gathering for an emergency summit in Brussels that could break the deadlock around the debt crisis facing Greece.

On Sunday, the Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, set out new proposals to try and prevent a default on a €1.6bn (£1.1bn) International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan.

The proposals, according to an European official, held plenty of promise.

Greece risks crashing out of the single currency and possibly the European Union (EU) if it fails to repay the loan by the end of June

Talks have been in deadlock for five months. The European Commission, the IMF and the European Central Bank (ECB) are not willing to unlock the final €7.2bn tranche of bailout funds until Greece agrees to economic reforms.

The three creditors must agree to the deal offered by Greece, to ensure Monday’s talks have a clear focus.

Further findings revealed that if deposit withdrawals continue at the current pace, Greek banks will soon exhaust eligible assets they can pledge to the Bank of Greece for cash under the Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) scheme.

Before then, the ECB could turn off the ELA drip feed because it is forbidden to allow the Bank of Greece to lend to insolvent banks.

Greece To Submit Economic Reform Plans To EU

greeceGreece is set to submit a list of economic reforms demanded by its creditors to extend the country’s bailout programme on Tuesday.

The proposals had been due by late Monday night as a condition of the support from the European Union (EU), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Greece needed to present its plans as a condition for extending its bailout program for an additional four months, in a deal struck with Euro zone partners on Friday.

It was painted by the country’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras as a victory for the Greek people, though it does little to reduce its financial obligations.

The list is understood to contain pledges to raise more in tax from the country’s top earners and from a crackdown on smuggling.

“In the Commission’s view, this list is sufficiently comprehensive to be a valid starting point for a successful conclusion of the review.”

“We are notably encouraged by the strong commitment to combat tax evasion and corruption” he said.

A German tabloid, Bild, reported that the Greek government hoped to take €2.5bn (£1.8bn) more from powerful Greek tycoons, citing sources close to the hard-left government.

A similar amount would be drawn from back taxes owed to the state by individuals and businesses, Bild said.

However, the document is also said to include commitments on raising the minimum wage and protecting pensions.

The pledges highlight the difficulties faced by the Syria government, as it must be seen to be honouring its election pledges on ending austerity and raising living standards while also keeping commitments to its creditors.

In return for its new agreement in Brussels, Athens had to pledge not to compromise its fiscal targets and had to abandon plans to use some €11bn (about £8bn) in leftover European bank support funds to help restart the Greek economy.

The Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras staged a climbdown on Friday to win the four-month extension.

Tsipras had promised to scrap the program when he won election last month.