Like many countries around the Mediterranean, Greece suffers from dangerous summer wildfires, but the one that tore along its Attica coast in July 2018 was the worst in the country’s history – claiming 99 lives and leaving thousands of others injured, traumatised and homeless.
“I don’t know who to be angry with – angry with God? Angry with people? Angry with myself?” says firefighter Andreas Dimitriou. While he fought to protect others, his wife and baby son were killed by the inferno at home.
Elsewhere 100 kilometre per hour winds enveloped the gridlocked roads of Mati, a popular resort at the heart of the disaster, catching day trippers in their cars and residents in their homes and defeating the efforts of the emergency services battling the blaze with elderly vehicles, redundant equipment and self-bought uniforms.
A catalogue of dreadful failure and mismanagement ensued, from traffic diversions leading people into harm’s way rather than out of danger, to illegal developments trapping others as they tried to flee into the sea, the only available refuge amid the flames.
So why was the response from the authorities so inadequate? Why were they so ill-prepared? Reporter Eric Campbell went to investigate.