Storm Daniel Disaster Storm Daniel Disaster

Kyriakos Mitsotakis is still facing his biggest crisis yet because residents are asking, “Where have the ‘immediate’ flood relief funds gone?”

Crisis Strikes Greece

Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, is currently facing his biggest crisis yet – just a week after a short respite, a storm of rainfall has submerged large parts of the country’s heartland. His government has swung into action to deal with this disaster, which claimed the lives of 15 people.

Health experts have declared a state of emergency in the flood-ravaged Thessaly region – one of Greece’s most prosperous agricultural areas – due to the unprecedented spread of diseases following forest fires fueled by the scorching summer.

Public health authorities have urged residents in affected areas to rely solely on bottled water for personal hygiene, drinking, and cooking, despite ongoing water shortages.

Nikos Androulakis, leader of the opposition Social Democratic PASOK party, toured the rain-soaked fields of Thessaly on Sunday, stating that “the economic damage is significant because the nation’s breadbasket is here.”

Flood Prevention Funds and Accountability in Thessaly

“The government and [local] prefecture responsibilities are significant. It is evident that they failed to shield Thessaly from such severe weather events.”

Androulakis informed reporters that, following Ianos, a rare Mediterranean hurricane that clashed with this very region three years ago, €240m (£206m) in funds were earmarked for flood prevention and recovery projects.

He emphasized, “We must assess the effectiveness of the flood prevention measures that have been put into action. Additionally, authorities should also extend their apologies for any pending tasks from recent years.”

On Monday – several hours after announcing “urgent” relief measures for Mitsotakis’ flood victims – many were questioning where the money had gone.

In a scathing statement, the center-left opposition party SYRIZA accused Mitsotakis’ government, which had just announced the leader’s mea culpa and self-criticism, of failing to respond to crucial projects for flood risk management “that have been accepted for a long time.” This includes infrastructure and anti-flood works.

It was said that three years after Ianos, Thessaly was now looking into a dark future under water and mud. This region produces over 25% of Greece’s agricultural output.

Fury Over Government Response to Greece’s Historic Rainfall

In the June general elections that followed the party’s defeat, Efi Achtsioglou, the new leader of SYRIZA, criticized the government, saying, “[long-accepted] flood risk management projects were tossed in the trash.”

“It disregarded alerts from the European Commission regarding unfinished projects. Responsibilities should be assumed.”

The sight of flood-stricken villagers taking refuge on the rooftops of their homes, waiting for days for assistance, has sparked anger in many communities, where the failure to properly coordinate rescue forces has given birth to frustration in the wake of the catastrophe.

Storm Daniel Disaster
Storm Daniel Disaster

Described as the worst rainfall in the country’s history, the torrential downpours from Storm Deneo overwhelmed central Greece within 24 hours, unleashing a year’s worth of precious rain.

Apart from the loss of life – which could rise further as two people remain missing – the stormy rains have left a trail of destruction, submerging roads, bridges, buildings, and essential infrastructure.

In some villages, entire neighborhoods are “erased from the map,” with information suggesting residents in some areas are submerged in waters up to 3 meters deep.

Quickly labeled a “national ordeal,” media reports have noted that even the term “Biblical devastation” falls short of describing the extent of the destruction.

While Greeks acknowledge the extraordinary power of nature, they have also complained that super Puma helicopters and enough planes for search and rescue operations were not available when the country spends more on defense per capita than any other EU member.

Greek Crisis Spurs Demand for Political Change

In an unexpected turn of events amidst Mitsotakis’ efforts to manage the crisis, Kathimerini newspaper’s editor, a nonpartisan voice, remarked that “lightweight” politicians had been placed in key positions in a fervent editorial declared, “It’s either time for us to get truly committed or face defeat.”

“The moment has come to set aside populism, above all else, Prime Minister,” wrote Alexis Papahelas, announcing that if the leader cannot find suitable candidates within his benches, they should be sought outside.

“We cannot change nature or geography. What we can do, from the prime minister down to the last citizen, is wake up and realize that if we don’t get out of our lethargy and cheap populism, we will become a ‘failed state.'”

In a comprehensive report on Monday, Kathimerini claimed that flood control projects in central Greece had remained on paper. It was stated that previously damaged roads and bridges had been rebuilt after Ianos, but environmental permits delayed flood protection projects.

Mitsotakis, who was elected to office for a second term following a triumphant electoral performance, takes pride in his crisis management skills. The results of the floods have stirred such turmoil that internal sources suggest that the 55-year-old leader could reshuffle his cabinet soon in a bid to give a new face to his beleaguered government.

This change is expected following Mitsotakis’ return from Brussels, where he will appeal for emergency funds to address the crisis alongside European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

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