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.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Forest Fires All Over Greece

The last three days have put pressure on the population of Greece, as forest fires spread over most of the southern regions. People have been left without homes, and for a region which is mostly agricultural, many have seen their farms and land go up in flames in a matter of minutes.

The Greek Media has been at the forefront of the fires, broadcasting real time images with journalists travelling to many of the most dangerous areas, reporting on the state of the fire at each place. Although the images we have seen over the last 72 hours will probably remain embedded in our memories, this is one of the few times that I feel I must take my cap off to the Greek Media. It is one time where I haven't been able to find the strength to judge the channels and their handling of the subject. On the contrary, watching the reports coming in and understanding the difficulty of the Greek Fire Department as fires spring up within minutes of eachother, I feel that this time, more than any other, the TV is actually aiding a situation which is out of control.

Telephone helplines have been set up so that people can phone in, a helping hand in a very trying hour of need. No, this is not a time to judge. It is a time for action. Villagers battle alone to save their homes, their lives. As windspeed increases, and the fires spread quickly, this real time reporting must help the authorities, who need all the help they can get in this true to life Greek Tragedy.

Some of Greece's most beautiful regions are being tested to their limits at this time. The people of Greece are in mourning for their country, for their heritage, for their livelihoods, and most people fear that the consequences will be even more tragic.

Who is responsible? A question on everyone's lips.

As a Greek Citizen I thank all the countries who reacted so promptly to our mayday. As an onlooker, I feel helpless as I watch lives being destroyed. As a human being, I feel disgusted that somebody could have done all this on purpose.