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22 July, 2000
The government on Friday unveiled a package of measures for the citizens and regions devastated by the recent spate of wildfires, which Prime Minister Costas Simitis described as "decisions and measures of relief and support of the regions and citizens affected by the fires".
Addressing a Cabinet meeting, Simitis said that an integrated series of measures had been agreed Tuesday during an inter-ministerial meeting for restoration of the damages caused mainly by a huge fire on the island of Samos that blazed for nearly 10 days and by fires in other regions of the country.
He said the measures aimed at the immediate relief of the fire-stricken citizens and to aid them in tackling the repercussions of the destruction and the productive rehabilitation of the fire-devastated regions.
The monitoring of the implementation of the measures was assigned to the Interior Ministry.
Simitis said that, in the past, Greece did not have an extensive system to aid the victims of wildfires, adding that the new measures were formulated on the experience with past fires and earthquakes, and were similar to those taken after the recent earthquakes.
"It is the first time that the State is intervening at such an extent to aid those who suffered loss and damage," the premier said.
Simitis praised the "heroism" of the fire brigade and Air Force pilots, and paid tribute to the two pilots who died when their plane crashed as they were assisting efforts to extinguish a fire near Pelion.
The premier further warned that the wildfire "season" was not over yet, adding that the conditions would continue to be difficult for the remainder of the summer.
"We have the largest number of firefighting planes than ever, more fire engines and a greater number of firefighting personnel than before. The state machine is on constant alert. The co-ordination of all the agencies involved is also at a much better level," he said.
But, he warned, extreme weather phenomena could cause re-percussions that are not easily controlled quickly, and that was why the caution and cooperation of all citizens was required in order to safeguard the environment and contain destruction to a minimum.
The measures are separated into four categories covering households, farm production, businesses, and infrastructures.
They include immediate financial help to families to help pay living expenses and replace household goods, financial aid to pensioners, workers and unemployed and tax relief, speedy loans on advantageous terms, temporary housing in hotels and rent subsidies, and extensions on deadlines for payment of public utility bills.
For farmers and animal breeders, the Agricultural Bank provides financial assistance to replace losses, and credit facilitation.
Appraisal of destruction:
Wildfires throughout Greece since the beginning of the year have partially or totally destroyed an estimated 724,000 stremma of forestland and 282,000 stremma of farmland, according to tentative figures released by the Agriculture Ministry on Friday.
According to the temporary figures, 723,841 stremma of forest and woodland and 282,272 stremma of farmland were partially or totally destroyed by wildfires between January 1 and July 19 this year.
In a breakdown by crop, the ministry said that 1,377,850 olive and citrus fruit tress, 202,000 fruit trees, 70,000 mastich-producing schinus shrubs, 12,700 stremma of vineyards, and 75,000 stremma of grazing land had been burned since the beginning of the year.
The Ministry said that Agriculture Minister George Anomeritis had briefed an Inner Cabinet meeting on Thursday on the extent of the destruction from wildfires this year.
Anomeritis also said that appraisals were already underway by the prefectural governments to finalize the damage figures and the damage suffered by individual farmers in order to determine the compensation to be provided.
The Minister further outlined the additional measures being taken by his ministry to restore the damages to forests, adding that all the burned forest expanses would be reforested, while new aerial photographs would be taken of the burnt expanses.
Further, studies would be conducted for the immediate construction of works to prevent soil erosion and flooding.
Source: Athens News Agency