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The Fires in Greece Part 2

I am amazed at how many people are e-mailing me wondering whether they should cancel or postpone their trip to Greece. Most assume that they will be OK but want to be reassured. I tell them that unless they were planning to go to the western Peloponessos they will be fine and probably won't even be aware of the devastation if their plans are for Athens and the Cyclades islands. Athens lost her major forests in the beginning of the summer in what was then called an unprecedented natural disaster, and the islands have no forests to burn. But what is really touching is the way people (mostly Americans) express their condolences to the Greek people and ask if there is some way they can donate money for the victims of the fires or the reforestation. You can criticise our inept government for the way we bungle things up in the world but when you get down to it the American people as individuals can be the most caring and giving in the world. In yesterday's blog I called the fires 'Greece's 9-11 but really it is more like 'Greece's Katrina'. Let's see if they handle the aftermath better than we did in New Orleans.

As you can see the fires have dropped off the radar screen on CNN what with a US Senator being charged with indecent behavior in an airport men's room and the resignation (at last) of Roberto Gonzales, not to mention the hospitalization of Owen Wilson. But CNN called me three times yesterday and liked the photos I took from the plane enough to use them on their websites and on CNN International TV. I actually turned down the offer to be interviewed. It did not seem right for me to be sitting in my air-conditioned house in North Carolina talking about a catastrophe that I had escaped before even knowing how much of a catastrophe it was, like I was some kind of expert. I gave them the number of George at Byzantino who as you may know was in his village of Neohori fighting the fire that threatened the village. I got this report from Laura who works at Byzantino:

Hi Matt,
First George wants everyone to know that he and his family are fine and not hurt.. Many people were very badly hurt, many killed and now reports say that 64 are reported dead due to the fires.. Of course George living through the situation said that whatever you hear and see in the papers or news is overly exaggerated  for news sakes.. No one knows who or what is responsible of course and this will not be something that will be know anytime soon naturally.   Again every year there are fires and this year just worse then in the past.   No one is ever blamed or caught and if it is done on purpose this is never known for sure.   I have read your impute to your readers and more or less the facts of the matter are written.. You can go on line so you can get more detailed reports of what is happening and do keep in mind one thing.. CNN Europe gives very different news then CNN America....!  Hopefully we will have rain soon which is desperately needed.. when I asked George about what I saw and what he went through he said that people did tend to over react and that at least in his area many people were by the sea. The lives lost were also a small part due to panicking and trying to save their lands and homes instead of them selves.. which is usually the case when ever a disaster happens for most people just DON'T LISTEN and want to do there own thing instead of listening to the guidance provided them.  Those that did and went near the waters where saved and fine.. Of course Greece is not prepared for such a catastrophe like any small  nation that has suddenly to deal with a situation of this size. Very expected I believe and normal.. An Unforeseen to and scary situation that needed to be dealt with patience and not hysterics...!!  But this is human nature to react in such a manor when something of this degree occurs.
We will keep you up to date on what we can on things here.. In Athens people have calmed down a bit and its almost back to normal.. Hopefully this will end soon and with out more lives lost.
Much love to all and hope to hear from you soon.
Sincerely Yours,
Laura and all the Gang :-)

She does not mention if George saved his house but I assume he did. But at least he and his family are OK. The report from my pal George Gerassimides of Fantasy travel is:

The fires are over  now, but the few  that exist in Pelopponese and in Evia are a 100% under control.
The main thing is that we don't have any  NEW FIRES.  

So hopefully this is the end of the first chapter in what will be the reforestation of Greece. It is interesting that the government has declared it arson and brought in the special police units to investigate it. But the leader of the Greek environmentalists says that evidence seems to point in the way of carelessness, not terrorism. But each party will use it to criticise the other party and some Greeks will blame outside agitators and others will blame the anarchists or the developers and they may all be right. There is no lack of suspects in this crime against nature. But I believe most of these fires were caused by cigarettes. If you live in a country that is a tinderbox where it does not rain for months at a time, you have to be careful where you smoke and how you dispose of your cigarette butts.

In response to an e-mail from a friend.

It reminds me of those birthday candles that re - light after we blow them out and I also think that there is  .............foreign involvement...........................  

"There does not need to be foreign involvement because there are enough suspicious characters in Greece. Real estate developers, anarchists, and people who want the New Democracy government to fall, especially those people who have the Pasok politicians in their pocket and want them in power. Not to mention all the people who smoke who never pay attention to where they throw their cigarette butts.
You and the entire country should quit smoking. It is the least you can do since you can't go and fight the fires yourself. You should make an example and do it to save Greece and maybe others will follow."

If Greece has to choose between forests and cigarettes I wonder which they will choose. I think I kind of know the answer. In the meantime for those ready to cancel your trips I think it is OK to go. And maybe in a week or so rent a car and visit Evia and the Western Peloponessos near Zacharo and Neohori and see the devastation that can be caused by carelessness, greed, ignorance, or hatred. And realize that what happened this summer in Greece maybe a taste of what is in store for many of us as the summers get hotter and dryer. And if you have any ideas on how to replant thousands of miles of forests and how to keep this from ever happening again, I would love to hear it.

And if you are Greek and reading this why not take one last drag on that cigarette, stub it out and quit forever. If you love your country it is the least you can do. (Albanians too)

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