Greece to speed up destruction of illegal property after fires

Athens (AFP) –


Greece vowed Wednesday to bring in a raft of measures following the deadly fires near Athens as the family of an elderly victim filed a complaint of "negligent homicide" against the authorities.

Ten days after wildfires ravaged coastal towns -- claiming at least 93 lives -- the government announced it would speed up the destruction of 3,000 illegal constructions around the Greek capital as well as "reorganising" civil defence and "improving protection".

Relatives of a man in his seventies who died lodged the "negligent homicide" complaint against the head of the civil defence, the prefect of Attica, the mayor of Marathon and "anyone responsible" for firefighters or police.

Environment minister Georges Stathakis said a string of legal and financial measures would "accelerate" the destruction of around 2,500 illegal constuctions in forests and around 700 on the coast as the government tries to manage opposition criticism and the anger of victims.

Meanwhile, authorities will "develop the prevention of forest fires", and "strengthen the controls" against walls and barriers that illegally block access to the seaside, said Socratis Famellos, Stathakis's deputy.

And interior minister Panis Skourletis announced a "reorganisation of the civil defence service", which has faced criticism from experts and the media.

Authorities and experts have blamed the loss of life and extensive damage to property -- particularly in Mati, east of Athens -- on strong winds and the chaotic urban planning in the pine forest area.

Many of the victims were trapped by the flames as they tried to reach the beaches because of a lack of evacuation planning and no access to the sea.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he assumed "political responsibility" for the tragedy but rejected accusations of a botched response.

The government has also announced a package of support measures for victims, including compensation and help with tax and banking amounting to 40 million euros.