Tuesday, 21 July 2015

A follow-up to the Greek fires

A journalist friend of ours wanting to write a report on last week's fires asked us if we wanted to come along, so we set off for Helioupolis. The Hymettus mountain, which you can see in the distance in this photograph, was our destination, the place where the fires erupted last Friday.

We reached the area where a member of the fire fighting team, an off-duty policeman, died. This is the boundary between the residential area and the mountain - remarkably, the houses were left unscathed

but not this caravan - even though it looks undamaged, except for the windows that were smashed by the force of the fire,

the inside is seriously damaged.

The burning smell was overwhelming: it will probably remain for the whole of the summer

until the autumn rains clear the atmosphere.

Two bee keepers who were smoking out the bees have been arrested, but the residents are convinced that it's the work of arsonists. 

We then moved on to the Helioupolis Volunteer Fire Protection hut. There were three vehicles stationed there, including a fire engine

volunteers and fire fighters were washing and cleaning the hoses.

These huge water barrels are permanent features in this area.


The devastation all around us is heart breaking

but again, fortunately, the houses were unharmed by the fire.

We then drove on to the Karea area, to visit the nunnery of Saint John Prodromos.

The flames surrounded the nunnery, and the nuns had to abandon their home, but we learnt that they had returned on the day of our visit.

this was such a depressing sight!

We talked to a man who was taking his dog for a walk. He told us about the human chain that was formed to bring water from the nearby supermarket all the way up to the mountain. Most of the wildlife, the partridges, hares and foxes managed to escape, he told us, but not the tortoises - hundreds have been found scorched by the flames.  So much misery and the destruction of a whole ecosystem!
We walked down the shady avenue away from the nunnery mourning the devastation that has been wreaked in the area. 


On the way back we stopped at an ATM as our friend wanted to withdraw her daily allocation of  60 euros. Contrary to what the media would have us believe, there are no long queues at the ATMs. We have been in Greece for over a week and not once have I seen more than one person at an ATM. People confirm this - yes, at some specific locations, at specific times, there are sometimes people queuing for money, but on the whole, there is no panic, no desperate scramble for money. The exaggerated, panic-inducing reports from the Greek and world media, are just not true.