Greece vows to speed up destruction of illegal property after wildfires

The interior of a burnt house is seen following a wildfire in the village of Mati, near Athens, Greece. (REUTERS/Costas Baltas)
Updated 01 August 2018
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Greece vows to speed up destruction of illegal property after wildfires

  • Ten days after wildfires ravaged coastal towns — claiming at least 93 lives — the government announced it would speed up the destruction of 3,000 illegal constructions
  • Relatives of a man in his seventies who died lodged a “negligent homicide” complaint against the head of the civil defense

ATHENS: Greece vowed Wednesday to bring in a raft of measures following the deadly fires near Athens as the family of an elderly victim filed a complaint of “negligent homicide” against the authorities.
Ten days after wildfires ravaged coastal towns — claiming at least 93 lives — the government announced it would speed up the destruction of 3,000 illegal constructions around the Greek capital as well as “reorganizing” civil defense and “improving protection.”
Relatives of a man in his seventies who died lodged the “negligent homicide” complaint against the head of the civil defense, the prefect of Attica, the mayor of Marathon and “anyone responsible” for firefighters or police.
Environment minister Georges Stathakis said a string of legal and financial measures would “accelerate” the destruction of around 2,500 illegal constuctions in forests and around 700 on the coast as the government tries to manage opposition criticism and the anger of victims.
Meanwhile, authorities will “develop the prevention of forest fires,” and “strengthen the controls” against walls and barriers that illegally block access to the seaside, said Socratis Famellos, Stathakis’s deputy.
And interior minister Panis Skourletis announced a “reorganization of the civil defense service,” which has faced criticism from experts and the media.
Authorities and experts have blamed the loss of life and extensive damage to property — particularly in Mati, east of Athens — on strong winds and the chaotic urban planning in the pine forest area.
Many of the victims were trapped by the flames as they tried to reach the beaches because of a lack of evacuation planning and no access to the sea.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he assumed “political responsibility” for the tragedy but rejected accusations of a botched response.
The government has also announced a package of support measures for victims, including compensation and help with tax and banking amounting to 40 million euros.


New York City Mayor de Blasio ends 2020 presidential bid

Updated 20 September 2019

New York City Mayor de Blasio ends 2020 presidential bid

  • The mayor, who is barred from seeking a third four-year term in New York in 2021, struggled to build a national profile and stand out in a crowded field
  • De Blasio had failed to qualify for a Sept. 12 debate that featured the 10 leading candidates for the party’s nomination

NEW YORK: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday said during an MSNBC television appearance that he was dropping out of the 2020 presidential campaign.
De Blasio, 58, launched his candidacy in May with the central campaign message “Working People First,” becoming the 24th Democrat to attempt to take on President Donald Trump in next year’s election.
The mayor, who is barred from seeking a third four-year term in New York in 2021, struggled to build a national profile and stand out in a crowded field that includes former Vice President Joe Biden and a long list of experienced politicians.
News of the mayor ending his presidential bid was greeted with sarcasm by Trump.
“Oh no, really big political news, perhaps the biggest story in years! Part time Mayor of New York City, @BilldeBlasio, who was polling at a solid ZERO but had tremendous room for growth, has shocking dropped out of the Presidential race,” Trump tweeted early on Friday. “NYC is devastated, he’s coming home!“
De Blasio had registered little support in polls and was eclipsed by progressive US senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
De Blasio said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that a “central reason” for his decision was the party’s rules for qualifying for televised debates. He had failed to qualify for a Sept. 12 debate that featured the 10 leading candidates for the party’s nomination.
“The bar is so high so early that for a lot of us — clearly, some of my fellow chief executives, governors — couldn’t make that cut,” de Blasio said. “It’s clear to me it’s a high bar, and that it’s one I’m not going to be able to meet.”
De Blasio had emphasized during the campaign a list of progressive wins under his leadership, including universal pre-kindergarten, the end of the policing practice known as stop-and-frisk and paid sick leave, all in a city that has a bigger population, more than 8 million, than most US states.
Most New Yorkers had appeared unenthused about de Blasio’s presidential aspirations. A Quinnipiac University poll in April found more than three-quarters of New Yorkers did not feel he should make a White House bid.