Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The flames still burn

It has been five days since the fires started burning the southern region of Greece. Today, there are fewer flames, less smoke, but the skies are still not the clear blue colour that we are all accustomed to, and for those villagers who lost their homes, their livelihoods, the skies will never be the same.

Today, our thoughts and prayers are with those who have suffered and those whose lives have changed within a matter of days, hours, minutes. The scenes we have seen on TV have caused shock and dismay, not only in Greece, but all over the world, but as the fire dies out, the finger of blame is pointed in many directions.

Having lived in Greece for 12 years I have observed the changes which it has gone through over these eventful years. One thing that seems to have remained the same over the years, though, is the inability to think ahead.

Prevention is better than cure! This phrase has been embedded in my mind since my early childhood. It is, in fact, one of life's unwritten rules. Why, then, in a country renowned for its lush green forests and nature reserves, a country with so much heritage and archeology, do the local authorituies, governments and individuals not seem able to look at a situation from all angles. Is it so ridiculous to think of preservation, survival in cases of emergency.

Many theories are being thrown around tables today. Theories of terrorism, conspiracy, land development companies seeking to build, farmers clearing areas for their animals, or just plain arson. Maybe the finger of blame though should be pointed at us. We are responsible for our past, present and future. We elect those who govern us, locally and nationally. We have to react to decisions made in all aspects of our lives. It may take a tragedy to make us look deeper at our lives, but this does not bring those who have died back. It does not make suffering easier. It does not lessen the pain.

Prevention. A few simple steps could have made the firefighters jobs easier. Did we know about these steps? Could the fires have been controlled by taking preventitive measures? Another fact is that many people refused to leave their homes, even after being told to evacuate areas. Camera crews in the area have shown us scenes in which we see villagers fight the flames although evacuation has been announced. Prevention, a word we should learn by heart.

Once again, say a prayer for those who have lost their lives, for those who have suffered, for the land that has been destroyed, but this is not the time to blame. Lessons must be learnt.

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