The authorities knew the danger of the situation and did not take care in time – In Thessaly, the Central Coordinating Body for Civil Protection did not work – Everything is predicted but not observed – The state apparatus is unprepared, disorganized and without planning – “We have escaped with 112”
By Konstantinos Kontokostas
The pathologies of the state apparatus that led to the death of 17 people from the catastrophic floods that hit Thessaly last September are revealed by the conclusion of the judicial expert Andrianos Gourbatsis, parts of which were made public last week.
Pathogens that as explained in larissanet the experienced expert, lieutenant general and deputy chief of the Fire Brigade in retirement, also appear in other major disasters in recent years in our country such as in Mandra and Mati.
Mr. Gourbatsis was appointed by the lawyer Stylianos Sourlas, who represents flood victims in Farkadona, in order to draw up a technical report on the floods in Thessaly. We remind you that Mr. Sourlas had declared that he would take legal action against anyone responsible for the disaster in Thessaly, while the prosecutor of the Supreme Court, Georgia Adeilini, ordered her colleagues, the prosecutors of First Instances of Volos, Karditsa, Larissa and Trikala to ascertain “any ex officio of prosecuted criminal acts, such as flooding (with possible intent or negligence), manslaughter by serial omission, breach of duty, infidelity, exposure, etc.”
“I saw the maps and I see that the same areas are drowning. The District knows this. You do projects over there and you don’t say that a lot of water fell. You are doing the right thing… We know that there will be severe weather phenomena from the 2nd-3rd of the month. They know that a lot of water will fall in Thessaly…”
In the 255-page report Mr. Gourbatsis, and according to what has seen the light of day, states that there was no anti-flood project, the authorities knew the danger of the situation and did not take care of the removal of the residents in time, thereby putting their lives at risk in danger. It also highlights flood plans and flood hazard maps that were known as of 2018.
“I saw the maps and I see that the same areas are drowning. The District knows this. You do projects over there and you don’t say that a lot of water fell. You are doing the right thing… We know that there will be severe weather phenomena from the 2nd-3rd of the month. They know that a lot of water will fall in Thessaly…” Mr. Gourbatsis mentioned during our discussion and points out regarding the responsibilities which according to him are of a criminal nature:
“In the conclusion, responsibilities are attributed to Civil Protection, the Fire Brigade, the Region of Thessaly, Municipalities and the Regional Fire Administration of Thessaly. And I argue why the criminal fatal exposure is based on errors and omissions and this has to do with the 17 people who were not rescued, when they should have rescued them and the other residents whose lives were at risk until they were removed because as you know the most were removed after 2-3 days. So for all of them, their lives were in danger.”
“Unprepared, disorganized and unplanned”
The flood in Thessaly was one of the deadliest natural disasters to hit our country in the last five years. The previous one was the deadly fire in Mati where 104 people lost their lives. In the trial that followed, Mr. Gurbatsi’s expert report played an important role.
We asked the experienced former officer, who is also a law graduate of EKPA, if the two disasters have some similarities in terms of the responsibilities of the state apparatus.
“Both in Mandra and Mati and the fires of ’21 and this year’s fires and the floods now, one thing is common. That the mechanism of the Civil Protection – and we mean the Civil Protection which is at the top and below is the fire department and all the agencies involved. Region, Municipalities, etc. – was unprepared, disorganized and without planning. Every time we see the same things” emphasizes Mr. Gourbatsis and adds that most municipalities had no plans for floods with the exception of Karditsa.
“Most Municipalities and Regions copy the general plan of the General Secretariat of Civil Protection. It’s not that. Here he tells you to design at a local level with your own peculiarities. That is, how to make an organized removal when necessary. Where will you take them? Have you planned? Not even in Mati was there such a plan, not in ’21, not this year. But Karditsa made an impression on me. I didn’t search all the municipalities. I searched ten municipalities and saw that Karditsa is the only one that actually planned properly. I was impressed because he actually did design. Now whether he applied it in practice is another matter”.
“In the conclusion, responsibilities are attributed to Civil Protection, the Fire Brigade, the Region of Thessaly, Municipalities and the Regional Fire Administration of Thessaly. And I argue why the wrongful death report is made up of errors and omissions and that has to do with the 17 people who were not saved…”
Then Mr. Gourbatsis analyzes the regulatory framework for risk management and coordination at a central level that was not done as it should be.
“Right now we have the status before 2020. The legal and institutional framework for Civil Protection. So what does it predict there? The highest body of Civil Protection is the Central Coordinating Body of Civil Protection and it includes the general secretaries of ministries, the leadership of the armed forces, etc. So he did not convene it.
A body that operated in Thessaly by order of the Prime Minister, this operational one that some ministers were in, took place on the 7th of the month. So the KSOPP had to work from 4 o’clock because we had storms in other parts of Greece as well.
So due to the seriousness it had to be convened in time, because what does that do? This coordinates all Civil Protection forces and gives orders. That is, it is the supreme body. That didn’t work. How to coordinate the forces in Thessaly? Who will coordinate them?” Mr. Gurbetsis tells us and adds that a common feature of all disasters is that “the mechanism is constantly falling asleep”.
“Unfortunately, the state needs a lot of work”
Then Mr. Gourbatsis brings into the conversation the fact of the climate crisis that must be taken into account in the planning of Civil Protection: “Daniel caught them sleeping in what sense?” We had the big fire in Evros. It was the mechanism of the Fire Department on alert, but it caught them asleep because we don’t have floods in early September. We expect the floods from the end of October onwards. But now we have a climate crisis, you can’t say when a storm will come, the mechanism must be ready in the summer. Unfortunately, the state needs a lot of work.”
112 is not a Media
At some point, and on the occasion of reports about imminent changes to the updates that “112” will offer, Mr. Gourbatsis comments on the system that during the days of the disaster in Thessaly alerted citizens to the impending danger. And sometimes not even in time according to him:
“The contract for the 112 called for other things when it started in ’14. It is not a Media. We have escaped. The point is that 112 works as it should. In the case, for example, of the girl in Mouzaki who lost her life in 2021 in the Janos bad weather, 112 was never activated. Because 112 works through antennas and in this case in Mouzaki it is activated through the antenna in Trikala. However, 112 did not know this and did not inform them at all. Or, here now with the floods. The embankment broke and a village drowned, in Marathea I think, and 112 went after 3.5 hours after it was flooded. These are mistakes. The mechanism needs a lot of work.”
Everything is foreseen but not followed
Towards the end of the debate, Mr. Gourbatsis emphasizes that the weaknesses of the state apparatus have been pointed out since 2007. However, changes have never been made and the reason, as he tells us, has to do with the faces.
“The institutional framework exists for everything. Everything is foreseen. The point is that they are not being followed. Example. The Civil Protection law now says that all Regions and Municipalities must create a special plan for the organized preventive evacuation of residents. Civil Protection issued a circular on forest fires. He has not taken out anything about the floods. For the floods, no exercises have been done, nothing.”
Source: LARISSANET PRINT
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