New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
The Greek American Community shows its solidarity for the victims of the wild fires in Eastern Attica, with messages of sympathy and fundraising activities. The number of dead has risen to 74 and the number of injured to 164 adults and 23 children. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, in a statement issued on Tuesday, expressed its deep sorrow and agony for the disastrous fires in eastern Attica.
“I express my sincere condolences to the people of Greece for this unexpected tragedy. As Greek Orthodox in America, we stand by and with our affected brothers and sisters in Greece and we fervently pray to God for the families impacted by this tragic calamity. We hope that favorable conditions will soon be restored for the return of life and progress in the destroyed areas,” said His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America.
The Archbishop has sent letters of condolence to the President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Prime Minister of Greece Alexis Tsipras, Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, Metropolitan Nikolaos of Mesogaia and Lavreotiki, and Metropolitan Kyrillos of Kifissia, Amaroussion and Oropos.
In addition, Archbishop Demetrios wrote an Encyclical to the reverend clergy and the faithful of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, asking them to hold a prayer service this Sunday, July 29, 2018 for the health, relief and support of the fire victims, and to offer a special memorial service for those who have lost their lives to this tragedy.
In the same Encyclical, the Archbishop asks the parishes to conduct a special fundraiser (to pass a special tray) on the following two Sundays to alleviate the suffering victims and offer help and hope to those whose homes and fortunes have been totally destroyed. All offers and contributions of either parishes or individuals should be sent payable to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America with a memo indicating Attica Fires Relief Fund.
The Supreme President of the Order of the AHEPA, Carl H. Hollister, speaking from the podium of the annual Congress of the organization that is taking place in Atlantic City, New Jersey, has also offered his condolences and called on the AHEPANs to mobilize in solidarity to the devastated people of Greece. AHEPA opened an Emergency Relief Fund for Greek Wildfire Aid and one may contribute by visiting AHEPA’s web site www.ahepa.org/donate
The Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) has also started a special fundraiser with a goal to collect $250,000. In the first 7 hours 370 people collected the amount of $34,909. You may contribute by visiting
The United States are “full engaged in support” of Greece following the devastating fires in Attica, US Ambassador in Athens Geoffrey Pyatt said at a meeting with Defence Minister Panos Kammenos on Tuesday.
According to a defence ministry announcement, Kammenos and Pyatt had a meeting at the ministry on Tuesday at the ambassador’s request, shortly after an emergency Defence Council on the devastating fires. They discussed bilateral defence cooperation matters and Pyatt extended the US government’s deepest condolences for the victims of the Attica disaster. The ambassador also indicated the willingness of the US to provide any assistance deemed necessary, the announcement said, noting that US unmanned aerial vehicles take part in fire-fighting operations.
In a tweet after the meeting, Pyatt said he was briefed on a survey of the affected areas and the actions of Greece’s armed forces, noting that the US European Command was “fully engaged in support”.
“Just finished at Hellenic Ministry of Defense, where I offered US condolences on the horrific losses from Attica fires. Minister @PanosKammenos briefed on his survey of affected areas and @Hellenic_MOD actions. @US_EUCOM fully engaged in support,” the ambassador’s tweet said.
Death toll from Attica fires rises to 74
The number of dead in the devastating fires in Attica was revised upward to 74 on Tuesday afternoon, while the search for more victims continues in Mati on Attica’s eastern coast.
According to the latest official announcement by the fire brigade press spokesperson Stavroula Mallidi, the number of dead has risen to 74 and the number of injured to 164 adults and 23 children.
The fires, which broke out at seaside resorts on the outskirts of the capital on Monday, continued to burn on Tuesday even as European Union member-states responded to a Greek request to boost its firefighting efforts.
Some of the fires had been partially contained by Tuesday afternoon, including one that had struck the small town of Mati, east of Athens, where the charred remains of 26 people were found in a field, including relatives embracing.
A total of 47 forest fires broke out between 6.00 am on Monday and 6.00 am on Tuesday, with the most important being that in Attica that has left at least 50 people dead so far.
Of these fires, most were extinguished in their initial stages but the fires in Attica were devastating despite the immediate large-scale mobilisation of the fire brigade. With wind blasts in the area reaching speeds of up to 9 Beaufort combined with the rapid advance of the flames, especially in Attica, the fire front quickly encroached on densely populated urban areas, preventing people from leaving in time.
Hundreds of firefighters continued efforts to curb a blaze in nearby Rafina and another in Kineta, west of Athens, where Monday’s blaze rekindled on Tuesday. There were also reports of a new smaller blaze in Aghioi Theodoroi.
Meanwhile, four more fires were burning in other parts of the country, including one near the port of Corinth and another on Crete.
Coast guard vessels patrolled the sea next to the seaside towns that were hit by the fires after rescuing more than 700 people who had fled to beaches or jumped in the sea to escape the spreading flames.
Rescue workers set up mobile units in Mati, Rafina and Kineta on Tuesday to distribute food and other supplies to hundreds of people who lost their homes in the fires.
According to the mayor of Rafina-Pikermi, Evangelos Bournous, more than 1,500 homes were destroyed in the fires.
As for the damage to forestland, it is estimated to be in excess of 2,100 hectares. The tragedy reignited discussion about the widespread practice of illegal construction on forestland and along the coastline.
Referring to an “unspeakable tragedy” in a televised address, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras declared three days of national mourning.
He indicated that the reasons for the tragedy and possible responsibilities – “the whys and wherefores” – would be investigated “when the time is right.”
Opposition leaders too said that now was not the time to cast blame, with New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis saying the priorities were “unity and solidarity.”
The response in the wake of the deaths appeared swift and efficient.
Municipal authorities joined forces with nongovernmental organizations and volunteers to gather supplies for hundreds left homeless by the fires and the Hellenic Red Cross opened bank accounts for donations.
Social media were also flooded with appeals for food, clothing and medicine for survivors while relatives of the missing posted requests for information.
Health authorities appealed for donations of blood and blood components to help burn victims in hospitals across Attica and drew a strong response from citizens.
The following fires are currently underway:
– In Kineta, where the fire started on Monday afternoon on the Gerania Mountains. There are 150 firefighters operating in the area with 74 vehicles and 17 people on foot, while four volunteer vehicles, 20 water tankers and 6 bulldozers from the Attica Region, the municipalities of Megareon, Loutraki, Vari-Voula-Vouliagmeni are assisting.
– In Kallitechnoupoli, where 190 firefighters are operating with 96 vehicles, assisted by 12 volunteer vehicles with 25 volunteers, 23 fire-fighters on foot, and three Canadair aircraft and two helicopters.
– In Zenomenos, Corinth, where 100 firefighters with 45 vehicles, 20 fire-fighters on foot, one aircraft and one helicopter are operating.
– In Metochi Vrysson, in Chania, Crete, where 60 firemen with 27 vehicles and two teams of foot are operating, while in the fire at Platiania, Chania, where there are 20 firefighters with 10 vehicles and one helicopter.
– In Larymna, Fthiotida, where there are 20 firefighters with 10 vehicles, a team of foot and a helicopter.
– Lastly, the fire that started at 2.30 on Tuesday morning in the area of Chlomos, also in the Municipality of Lokron, Fthiotida, where 18 firefighters with 9 vehicles are operating.
The fires at the location of the Panorama of Ag. Apostoloi, Kalamos, Sousaki, Agioi Theodori, in Korinthia, Isthmia, in Loutraki, and in Lefkimmi of Soufli at Evros are subsiding.
President sends a message of unity
President Prokopis Pavlopoulos sent a message of unity on Tuesday and support for the families hurt by the fires in Attica. In a statement regarding the 44th anniversary of the Restoration of Democracy, Pavlopoulos said that with this year’s anniversary, all thoughts are on the tragedy of the fires that struck Attica.
This tragedy shows us, at the same time, the road to our own debt, particularly within the broader framework of today’s conditions, for the future of our people and our country, said the Greek president.
I am certain that we can overcome the obstacles that we face and in the end overcome them, he said, adding that this requires we have full awareness of the historical context, its needs and messages.
PM Tsipras addresses Greek people after devastating fires
“Nothing and nobody will be forgotten. Nothing and nobody will be left without help and the assistance of the state. But also, nothing will left unanswered,” Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in a national televised address to the Greek people on Tuesday, after the devastating fires that left at least 60 dead and hundreds injured.
The entire message of the Greek prime minister is as follows:
“There are no words to describe the feelings we are all feeling at these hours. The country is living through an unspeakable tragedy.
“Dozens of human lives have been lost … and this is unbearable for everyone. More so for families who have lost their loved ones but also for those of us who are in positions of responsibility. For those who understand that there is nothing more valuable than human life.
“Today Greece is mourning. And in the memory of those who were lost, we call three days of national mourning.
“On the other hand, he continued, “we must not let grief overcome us because these hours are hours for effort, for unity, courage and above all solidarity.
“Only in this way, all together, we can stay upright in the face of this tragedy.”
“Greece is going through a great ordeal. At such times, there are no differences. Their time will come and we will look – with respect, I hope, for the dead – at the hows and whys of what happened.
“It is now the time to mobilise and struggle. To strive to save what can be saved, strive to defeat the fire, strive to find missing persons, to not mourn other lives and soothe the pain of those who have been afflicted.
With absolute respect and deep recognition:
To our fire-fighters, they fought an incredible heroic fight.
The rescuers of the EKAB ambulance service.
To the men and women of the Armed Forces, the Coast Guard and the police that yesterday saved hundreds of human lives.
“With immense respect for the thousands of volunteers who are present at this time.”
And, concluding, Alexis Tsipras emphasised:
“I want to pledge that:
Nothing and no one will be forgotten.
Nothing and no one will be left without help, without state assistance.
And nothing will be left unanswered.
Finally, I would like to warmly thank all the foreign leaders who have been expressing their solidarity and offering their help. Greece is going through one of its toughest moments. We thank them that their thoughts are with us. With unity and faith in the forces, we will stand upright.”
ND leader Mitsotakis visits Rafina-Pikermi
municipality for briefing on disaster
Main opposition New Democracy President Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Tuesday paid a visit to the Rafina-Pikermi municipality and held talks with the mayor, local government officials and Attica region MPs.
According to ND, local officials briefed Mitsotakis on the extent of the disaster in the area following Monday’s devastating fires, expressing fears that the death toll will climb even higher due to the large number of people reported missing. They also noted that the number of homes gutted by the fire has yet to be confirmed, including which among them were permanent residences as opposed to holiday homes.
Mitsotakis promised to make every possible effort to assist in finding shelter for the families that have lost their homes, discussing the issue with the head of the Greek municipalities’ union Yiannis Patoulis, who was in the area.
ND’s leader also highlighted the need to restore power and the water supply to the area and ensure the quickest possible relief and compensation for damages and loss of property. He then talked with Red Cross staff assisting with relief and rescue efforts and fire brigade officers coordinating operations in the area.
After his visit to Rafina, Mitsotakis went to the Sismanoglio Hospital and took part in a meeting with the hospital’s administration and doctors, who briefed him on the condition of the burn victims admitted on Monday night and the effort underway to save those in critical condition.
Greek PM informs Archibishop
Ieronymos on fires, action plan
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras spoke with Archbishop of Athens Ieronymos on Tuesday and informed him on the course of fire fighting efforts and initial measures being taken by the government, the premier’s office said.
Tsipras thanked the archbishop for the church’s assistance in helping those hurt by the fires.
Greece unveils initial measures for fire victims
The Greek government unveiled on Tuesday a series of immediate measures to help fire victims.
Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras there was an assessment of the situation and of the immediate steps that will be taken. Among the measures agreed upon are:
-The Finance Ministry will provide 20 million euros in a special account for the Interior Ministry to meet immediate needs of municipalities struck by the fires
-A special account will be set up for donations for fire victims to be paid into by the state and the private sector. The money will be used to pay for damages. The state’s participation will be decided in coming days.
-Patrol teams consisting of the police, firefighters and the army will be put together to stand over the areas.
Tzanakopoulos pointed out that the Finance Ministry has also take steps to help fire victims. They include:
-Extension of deadline for submission of tax returns to September 28
-Six month extension for regulated payments of tax obligations
-ENFIA tax dropped for 2018 for those whose homes were damaged.
Tzanakopoulos added that these dates may be further pushed back, if deemed necessary. He added that the main measures will be unveiled in coming days for the families of the victims and compensation for those that suffered damages.