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Behind Greece’s forest fires: a tragic reminder of our collective responsibility as Europeans

27/07/2018

ATHENS – A biblical calamity befell Attica last Monday. I saw its first sign in the late morning at Athens airport, where I was seeing off my daughter to Australia. A strong whiff of burning wood caused me to look up to the sky, where a whitish-yellow sun beckoned, surrounded by the telltale eclipse-like daytime darkness that only thick, sky-high smoke can cause.

By the early evening, the news began cascading in. Many of our friends’ and some of our relatives’ houses in East Attica were destroyed. Forest fires had run amok, spreading toward the heavily built-up coastline, cutting the settlement of Mati and the town of Rafina off from Athens and forcing residents to flee toward the sea.

I first learned of casualties when told of the plight of activists belonging to our political movement, DiEM25. The flames destroyed their house in Mati, along with every other house on their street; but at least they escaped with their lives. Barely. Their next-door neighbors perished; when their corpses were discovered the next morning, they were crouched together, their three-year-old girl in the middle of a heartbreaking huddle.

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