Greek Government feels heat over forest fires

Political leaders in Greece are under the cosh for failing to deal with forest fires that have killed at least 63 people in 5 days and continue to burn out of control. Thousands of firefighters from across Europe are tackling blazes on 25 fronts, which ma

Thirty-two suspected arsonists have so far been arrested.

The Government in Athens has vowed to hunt down the arsonists it blames for turning much of the Peloponnese pininsula into an inferno.  It says Greece is facing an asymmetrical attack, which is code for terrorism.  But opposition leaders have dismissed the claim, saying the Government is trying to divert attention away from its failure to deal with the crisis.

Unfortunately they are continuing to act without seriousness and the sense of responsibility that these times demand. They concern themselves with conspiracy theories involving terrorists. This results into country’s being cast into disrepute. It undermines our democratic institutions and it terrorises Greek people.

George Papandreou, Greece’s opposition Socialist Party leader
“Unfortunately they are continuing to act without seriousness and the sense of responsibility that these times demand. They concern themselves with conspiracy theories involving terrorists. This results into country’s being cast into disrepute. It undermines our democratic institutions and it terrorises Greek people,” George Papandreou, Greece’s opposition Socialist Party leader said.

Greece has an election in three weeks and the wildfires are likely to dominate the campaign. 

Embattled Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who announced a state of emergency at the weekend, again tried to reassure the public.

“At this time Greeks, all Greeks, have a duty to be united to prove that we can distinguish between what is important and what is not; to prove that as in the past, even now, we can function as a single soul in times of national crisis,” Karamanlis said.

There have been protests on the streets of Athens over the Government’s response to the fires. 
 
Some accuse Greece's neigbours of being behind the emergency.
 
Many demonstrators say the fires were started by developers in order to clear land for building.  Greece has no land registry, so once a region has been burned, there is no definitive proof of whether it was initially forest, farm or field.  There are now calls for legislation to stop developers benefiting from fires.