Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras visited the coastal village of Mati on Monday, marking his first visit to the devastated area since last week’s fires killed at least 91 people and injured dozens more.
Residents from the town northeast of Athens have accused the government of a lackluster response, claiming that there were no emergency procedures in place to react to the quickly-moving blazes.
Tsipras visited the town without any media announcement beforehand and brought one camera from Greek public broadcaster ERT.
The prime minister spoke to locals and emergency service teams searching for the estimated 25 missing, and he also held briefing sessions with the Greek Fire Brigade and civil engineers assessing the scene.
In order to prevent similar future disasters, Tsipras has promised to implement multiple changes that include cracking down on residents illegally building homes.
The Greek Parliament leader shared an update about his visit via Twitter, saying he felt “unspeakable sorrow.”
Επισκέφθηκα σήμερα το τόπο της τραγωδίας. Συνομίλησα με πολίτες, μηχανικούς, στρατιώτες, πυροσβέστες και εθελοντές. Ανείπωτη θλίψη μα και απέραντος σεβασμός σε όσους έδωσαν την άνιση μάχη με τις φλόγες και τώρα δίνουν τη μάχη της αποκατάστασης. pic.twitter.com/nWt7RGQAvb
— Prime Minister GR (@PrimeministerGR) July 30, 2018
He wrote: “I spoke with citizens, civil engineers, soldiers, firemen and volunteers. [I have] unspeakable sorrow but also immense respect for those that fought an unequal battle with the flames and are now fighting the battle for restoration.”
Greece’s conservative opposition party called Tsipras’ visit a “publicity stunt” that aimed to distract the public from his government’s mishaps in its emergency response.
“An entire week passed since the national tragedy before Mr. Tsipras could visit Mati like a thief, and in a totally protected environment,” New Democracy said in a statement. “The people, however, are no longer convinced by publicity stunts. They want to know the whole truth as to how so many lives were lost for no reason.”
The prime minister’s aides said he had been busy coordinating the response from Athens.
Infrastructure ministry officials have inspected nearly 3,670 buildings in affected areas, reporting that at least 1,046 need to be demolished.
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