Greece is facing an extremely critical situation like other countries and is asked to manage dozens of forest fires simultaneously after ten days of a heatwave, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Thursday.
In a live address on several large fires burning in Greece - particularly in Attica, Evia island and Ilia in the Peloponnese - Mitsotakis said the government's priority is to protect human lives first, then to protect private property, the natural environment and critical infrastructure. "Unfortunately, the simultaneous achievement of all these targets is simply untenable," he added.
The state machinery and firefighters, both men and women, have put in extraordinary efforts he said. "We ought to show them our gratitude in practical ways, recognizing that sometimes we ask them to do things that are simply beyond their powers," he noted.
The prime minister warned that "difficulties are still ahead and the coming night is threatening." Strong winds were expected in many areas of Greece on Friday, adding up to "unprecedented conditions, following several days of a very fierce heatwave that has turned the entire country into a powderkeg."
Mitsotakis said that the government and Civil Protection had an emergency plan, which placed 6 regions including Attica under red alert status.
He called on the public to restrict unnecessary movement and be careful, and to follow orders for evacuations. "Houses can be rebuilt and trees regrow, but human life cannot be replaced," he said, calling for unity and holding off criticism and self-criticism for later.
To those who are justifiably angry for losing properties, the state will stand by them just as it did during the Ianos weather phenomenon and other recent natural catastrophes. Properties will be restored and farmers compensated, while all burned forestland will be replanted, "as the Constitution requires."
PM Mitsotakis said that it is necessary to strengthen Greece before the unavioidable reality of climate change. "I am not looking for an alibi or an excuse," he stressed, "we have made significant progress in organizing the state, but this is not enough when you face a natural disaster of such an extent. These last days, we have fought battles we won and some we lost. The state will try to improve every day. It is also necessary that citizens remain calm and united."