The Day After
In the past few weeks, Greece has been facing the worst wildfire disaster ever, with Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis declaring a nationwide state of emergency on August 25 . More than seven days of devastating blazes from the northern border with Albania to the southern island of Crete have razed dozens of villages, scorched hundreds of thousands of hectares and led to a death toll of 65 people. Most of the fires were concentrated in the Peloponnese from its western end to its southeastern tip, whereas the island of Euboea , also took heavy losses in terms of parched forests and scrubland.
Greece 's fire-fighting efforts were conducted under unprecedented and extremely difficult conditions . However, the overall mobilization of the state and the valuable international assistance generously offered to Greece, along with improved weather conditions, have allowed firefighters to bring the situation under control (2.9.2007) .
The challenge of the day after is serious and multifaceted. It has to do with addressing the environmental disaster, providing assistance to those affected by the fires and reconstructing the disaster areas. T he government already announced the swift implementation of a relevant plan of immediate and mid-term measures . It is worth noting that the tourist industry infrastructure remains, almost entirely intact, while the Museum of Ancient Olympia has reopened its doors to its visitors.
Solidarity with Fire Victims
A Special Fund to support the fire victims has been created for their immediate assistance. Interested individual and/or organisations are welcome to use the special "Relief Account for Fire Victims":
Account no: 2341103053 at all Greek banks
Swift/ BIC: BNGRGRAA
Greek consular and embassy missions abroad
Fire Relief Efforts & Funds:
Hellenic Red Cross
Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation Observatory
"I help Greece" Initiative
American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association
World Council of Hellenes Abroad
More than 35 countries have helped Greece in her efforts to combat the fires, aid victims, and address reconstruction efforts. A number of companies, organizations, and countries have announced specific assistance in support of these efforts:
- The Alpha Bank Group and the Fourlis Group will make donations totaling 30,000,000 euro in financial aid to assist the task of addressing the emergencies, which have resulted from the recent fires in Greece and as a contribution towards strengthening the Fire Department.
- The Fourlis Group will donate full furnishings/appliances for 200 homes, of the fire-stricken.
- The Pancyprian Union of Public Servants (PASYDY) announced the donation of 200,000 Cyprus pounds (340,000 euros) for the recovery of fire-stricken regions of Greece and the relief of people affected by the recent wildfires. The union has also decided to proceed with a money collection among its members by retaining two percent from their salaries for the month of October. The PASYDY estimates that the total sum from the donation and the money collection will reach 500,000 Cyprus pounds (850,000 euros).
- The Aegean Airlines will give one million euros to fund projects for the recovery of fire-stricken areas, depositing the sum in two equal installments in the Special Fund for Meeting Emergency Needs. In addition, in two weeks time the airline will be in a position to let customers buying tickets over the Internet, choose an option that will offer two euros to the fund for each ticket. The offer will be available for six months.
- The Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group will donate 200,000 euros to the Special Fund for Meeting Emergency Needs for the recovery of fire-stricken areas of Greece.
- The Attica SA Holdings announced that it deposited, on behalf of Superfast Ferries and Blue Star Ferries companies, the sum of 150,000 euros in the Special Fund for Meeting Emergency Needs for the recovery of fire-stricken areas of Greece, and
- The Worker Housing Organization (OEK) announced that people whose homes were either lost or severely damaged in the recent fires, will qualify for interest-free loans from the organization in order to buy or rebuild new ones. For homes that were destroyed or condemned, claimants will qualify for a loan of 100,000 euros and an additional 2,000 euros for each dependent child or disabled family member to buy a new home, payable over 25 years with an eight-month period of grace. Those building a new house will receive 1,450 euros per square meter, payable over 25 years and with a one-year period of grace before payments commence. For homes judged temporarily uninhabitable and in need of repair, claimants will received up to 25,000, again increased by 2,000 euros for each dependent child, payable over 18 years and with a one-year period of grace.
- USA Today (Sept. 5, 2007) ran a full-page ad, titled "The Birthplace of Democracy Needs your Help," sponsored by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and endorsed by prominent Greek Americans. It encouraged contributions to the Greek Fire Relief Fund established by the Greek Archdiocese, mentioning that contributions to the Fund "are restricted for the purpose of providing relief for the victims of the fires in Greece and will be controlled by the Archdiocese and audited by an independence auditing firm. As a U.S. charitable entity under Internal Revenue Code section 501(a), your donations for this Fund are eligible for charitable deduction under IRS section 170 to the extent allowed under law." To make a donation to the above Fund, visit http://www.goarch.org or mail your check or money order to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (earmarked for the Greek Fire Relief Fund), 8 East 79th Street, New York, NY 10075.
- The Louis Group will donate 15 new firefighting vehicles, valued at 700,000 euros, to support the Greek Fire Brigade and all the municipalities in which it is active. According to a relevant announcement, five of the firefighting vehicles will be delivered to the Greek Fire Brigade, while 10 vehicles will be given to various municipalities. Louis Hotels and Louis Hellenic Cruises have sent various commodities and equipment to the wildfire-stricken regions.
- Greek diaspora throughout the world have rapidly donated $1.2 bln in aid to wildfire-affected regions.Through mobilization of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE), more than $1,200,000 dollars have been collected worldwide in support of the fire-affected inhabitants of the Peloponnese and the island of Evia in central Greece (September 3, 2007). Greek Australians donated $755,000, Greek Canadians $200,000 and the SAE in countries of the former Soviet Union, 200,000 euros.
- A group of six experts in fighting forest fires and dealing with natural disasters from the United States arrived in Greece on Monday to assist Greek authorities in dealing with the fires crisis and its aftermath, the U.S. Embassy announced. Among them is the US Forest Service's top fire-fighter and disaster-relief specialists from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The United States has also shipped another $250,000 in relief supplies to the Greek Red Cross, which brings the total U.S. government assistance to Greece up to $1.5 million to date (September 3, 2007).
- The European Investments Bank approved in principle a loan for Greece that will reach 100 million euros at an initial stage, with a duration exceeding 20 years and with the most favorable financing terms.The final amount of the loan to be provided for the country will be determined at a second stage, after a full assessment of the damage caused by the wildfires (September 2, 2007).
- Ahepa in the U.S. has led American effors to assist victims of the wildfires. Read more:
Care Package Drive, volunteer firefighters,continuing aid, and other accounts."
- The European Commission will activate the EU Solidarity Fund and whatever else is necessary to help Greece. Commissioner for Regional Policy Dan?ta Hubner pledged to immediately release €200 million in EU aid for the regeneration of fire-ravaged areas in Greece and to earmark another €400 million for disbursement soon (September 2, 2007.
- The Cypriot government and people have contributed aid reaching five million euros (September 2, 2007) and "increasing by the hour."
- The Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church (175 Oaklawn Ave.) in Cranston, Rhode Island will dedicate its 22nd annual festival (Sept. 7 – 9) to help the victims of the devastating fires that hit Greece last week. The fundraising effort is being spearheaded by Senator Leonidas P. Raptakis, D-Coventry.