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国际英语新闻:Feature: Residents of fire-stricken resorts near Athens protest delays in reconstruction

更新时间:2024-06-23 06:26:49

  ATHENS, May 16 (Xinhua) -- Ten months after losing relatives, friends, neighbors, homes and happiness during wildfires which swept through two once idyllic coastal resorts near Athens, a group of fire-stricken Greeks protested on Thursday outside the Greek Environment Ministry over the delays in the reconstruction process.

  On July 23, 2018 two fires which broke out in Kineta, 45 kilometers west of the Greek capital and in Mati, 30 km to the east, claimed 102 lives, leaving behind numerous injured, hundreds of destroyed or damaged houses and many acres of charred down forested land.

  In particular the fire at Mati, where all 102 casualties were, was the deadliest in a decade in Greece, leaving the entire nation in shock.

  In the first days and weeks after the tragedy officials pledged the state's full support to the residents so they can heal their wounds and stand on their feet again.

  On Thursday people protested that ten months later not much has been done yet, after the initial financial handouts.

  We were burned by the fire, but indifference is killing us, read banners raised by protesters.

  Ten months later, only a few dozen licenses for reconstruction of houses have been issued, more than 120 families are still housed in camps, while others have found shelter in relatives' homes and infrastructure projects are not progressing fast enough, they said.

  They promised us last summer that this year we would all have returned to our homes. There are people who have lost their loved ones, there are people with burns who are struggling everyday visiting hospitals, with no aid, paying on their own. This is what they must see in Mati, how we are living, Yannis Koletis told Xinhua.

  His home was destroyed by the blaze and he is one of the people still accommodated in camps.

  We are not illegal, it is not our fault that we are fire stricken, he said, referring to the debate that started in the wake of the destruction on the residents' share of the blame.

  Government officials and experts said that many of the houses in Mati and Kineta had been built without proper licenses and urban planning and many victims were trapped in narrow streets leading to dead ends, as the exits to the sea were blocked by summer homes.

  People who gathered outside the ministry on Thursday insisted that all this talk was fake news and most of them had built their homes with licenses and were paying all relevant taxes to the state for decades.

  So many years that we were there and we were paying all this money for electricity, water, municipality fees, real property tax, other taxes, transfers, contracts, everything, we were not illegal. We were good, because we were paying the state. It is time the state paid for us, Antonis Petridis, member of the coordinating committee of Kineta residents told Xinhua.

  We are hearing only words, but they should turn them into actions. There are fire-stricken people today who are homeless and are sleeping once here, the next time elsewhere. They are being fed at soup kitchens. This must end. They should give a solution, he said.

  We have been abandoned at the mercy of God. After the fire, floods came and all homes flooded, they were all damaged, including those which had not been affected by the fire, Lefteris Papatheodorou, another Kineta resident, told Xinhua.

  Only a few things have been done, not so much, according to what they had pledged. We are still in the pledges stage. Nothing has materialized. Mati is like a cemetery. It was a paradise. We ask that people return to their homes, said Vassilis Vrettos who was wearing a black t-shirt with the date that changed dramatically their lives printed on.

  Vrettos did not lose his home, but he grieves for friends and neighbors who perished in the fire. All residents are in pain, regardless of losses, he said.

  Panagiota Vlachea, lost two family homes in Mati and is living on the rent, waiting for a license to start over again.

  They do make some steps, but 10 months have passed and we still don't even have licenses. We want to see our homes rebuilt. It is simple. That's it. We are not asking much, only the fundamental, she told Xinhua.

  Ten months later we are living in a bombarded city. Why? Nothing has been done. Why? I am a resident of Mati living in a bombarded city and I demand a change tomorrow. That's all, Varvara Kasselouri said.

  In a press statement issued following a meeting between a delegation of protesters and Environment Minister George Stathakis, it was pledged that the procedures for the issuance of licenses and reconstruction projects will accelerate.