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  HOME | World (Click here for more)

Greek Village Gutted by Deadly Fire Shows Scars 1 Year On

ATHENS Ė A year has passed since a devastating fire swept through the coastal village of Mati, barely 30 kilometers from the Greek capital Athens, and claimed the lives of 102 people.

Twelve months later, nothing seems to have changed. The skeletal remains of the buildings still stand amid an expanse of razed land.

The people of Greece have the tragedy fresh in their minds and continue to reproach the governmentís handling of the emergency, demanding aid for the victims who were promised it, but most of whom havenít received it.

The new conservative prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, visited Mati on Tuesday, where he attended a religious service in memory of those who died in a fire that reduced a summer paradise to ashes.

On Monday, during the last debate session in Parliament, Mitsotakis vowed to unblock the funds that one year after the incident have still not been handed out.

The measures, which come into effect in August, include freeing up 31 million euros as well as providing free access to health care and medicine for burn victims, which comes in response to reports showing that many victims havenít received the treatment they need from the Greek national health system (Eopyy).

According to Mitsotakis, over 4,300 residents who lost their homes will not have to pay the unified real estate property tax (ENFIA) for the next five years.

Some 20 million euros will be allocated to rebuilding the area, which has seen little progress in the past year and left residents surrounded by the living memory of the fire.

The blaze, which began on July 23, 2018, was one of the deadliest to have taken place on a world scale so far this century.

On that Monday last July, there were several hot spots across Greece, but most of the emergency response teams were concentrated on a large fire in Kineta, some 50 km west of Athens.

The strong winds suddenly changed direction and spread quickly through the area near the port town of Rafina, 30 km to the east of Athens, where Mati is located.

The slow response and violence of the fire left hundreds trapped in their homes or cars as they tried to flee.

Others ran into the sea, where they had to wait for hours to be rescued, watching the flames destroy the village in about an hour and a half.

Experts said a lack of urban planning, including buildings being built next to each other illegally, turned Mati into a bottle neck and led to the high number of deaths.

The Athens Prosecutorís Office opened a summary in March against several public offices to clarify their roles in the tragedy, including the former Attica regional government president, two mayors, and several senior officers from the firefighting department and Civil Protection.

After the fire, the government said it would regulate illegal buildings across the country to avoid such tragedies happening again.


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