ATHENS, Greece – Greece’s prime minister vowed on Tuesday that experts will investigate all aspects of the country’s deadliest forest fire in decades and that the seaside resort areas devastated by the blaze will be rebuilt to higher standards.
Alexis Tsipras led a meeting about the fire on Tuesday with ministers and regional officials in Lavrion, a seaside town about 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of the areas burned. At least 91 people died in the July 23 fire.
“My promise, from the first day of this tragedy, was that the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ will be investigated in depth and in all its dimensions,” Tsipras said. “Nothing will be covered up in the name of any vested interests.”
The prime minister reiterated that illegal buildings and fencing erected in forests, on coastlines and in creeks will be demolished. Government officials have blamed unauthorized construction for contributing to the death toll. Experts have pointed to the lack of town planning in the worst affected area of the seaside resort of Mati as a contributing factor, with narrow streets, numerous dead ends and no clear way to get to the sea.
“Uncontrolled building which threatens human lives can no longer be tolerated. Anything that destroys forests and coastlines, anything that is a danger to human life, will be torn down,” Tsipras said. “It is our duty toward our dead, but most of all it is our duty toward the future generations.”
Tsipras’ government has come under intense criticism for its handling of the blaze, particularly after it denied any mishandling of the response effort. The public order minister, Nikos Toskas, had argued that despite much soul-searching he had been unable to detect any major mistakes. But following intense criticism from opposition parties, Toskas resigned last Friday, and senior officials under his supervision followed suit over the weekend.