Sadness, anger at candlelight vigil outside parliament for Greek fire dead
admin • July 31, 2018 • 2480
Candles arranged to spell “23-7” marking the date of the deadly wildfire. Screenshot from Reuters video
Several hundred Greeks holding candles gathered silently outside parliament on Monday (July 30) evening to commemorate those who died in a deadly wildfire.
Standing around a heart shape arranged from the glowing lights, some mourners blamed the government’s handling of the disaster for the high death toll.
“I’m here to light a candle in memorial for those people, who in my opinion did not die due to the winds, they died because of a criminal (act)…Because of the state,” 54-year old Periklis Fountoulis said.
With candles spelling the date of the fire – July 23 – flickering at their feet, others said they were still crippled by sadness a week on from the disaster which killed at least 91.
The country’s deadliest fire happened a week ago in the coastal town of Mati, which is 30 km (17 miles) east of Athens, and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has been attacked by opposition parties for the government’s handling of the disaster, which killed at least 91 people and left dozens injured. — Reuters
Athens – Greece on Wednesday elected a woman head of state for the first time in the country’s history after the male-dominated parliament voted in favor of appointing well-known judge Katerina Sakellaropoulou as president.
She received the backing of 261 lawmakers in the Hellenic chamber, well above the necessary 200, with the support of almost all members of the conservative New Democracy government and the left-wing opposition Syriza and center-left Movement for Change.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said: “Greece enters a new era today, the country enters the third decades of the 21st century with a woman president.”
He described her as a “great personality” who united Greek people.
Although Sakellaropoulouwon a large majority, she couldn’t count on the vote of one of New Democracy’s best knowns faces, former prime minister Andonis Samaras, who was out of the country.
Several names had been mulled for the position of president by Greek media, including Samaras himself.
Parliament’s speaker Konstantinos Tasoulas will formally communicate Sakellaropoulou’s appointment and the new president is expected to take office on 13 March, a day after the first and only term of her predecessor Prokopis Pavlopoulos comes to an end.
In Greece, it is common for leftist governments to propose conservative presidential candidates and vice versa to project an image of institutional consensus.
While never openly campaigning for a political party, Sakellaropoulou is considered as progressive and was the first person to preside over the Greek Council of State after being appointed by the previous Syriza government in 2018.
In addition to the image of institutional cohesion, Mitsotakis achieves three things with his proposed head of state: weakening the narrative from the opposition that he is on the far-right, putting a conservative judge in charge of the Council of State and removing Pavlopoulos from office.
Outgoing presidents are usually chosen for a second term. This is the first time that a government has decided not to propose a candidate from its own ranks.
Sakellaropoulou’s election as president is an indicator of change in a deeply unequal country.
According to the European Union’s agency for equality, Greece has the dubious honor of leading the list in terms of gender disparity.
Only 18 percent of lawmakers and 9 percent of company executives are women, according to the research.
“The time has come for our country to choose a woman as president,” Mitsotakis said when he announced the candidacy. EFE-EPA
Residents in Brazil’s vast Mato Grosso state were battling blazes spreading in dry brush while Brazil’s military arrived at a remote jungle location to fight the fires that continue to plague the South American nation and threaten the world’s largest rainforest: the Amazon.
As fires spread through dry vegetation and threatened a local farm near Agua Boa in Mato Gross on Wednesday (September 04), local resident Francicles Niatslovs told Reuters a water truck fighting the flames, “but we can’t keep up, its all burning.”
The number of blazes in Brazil has skyrocketed 80% in the year to date compared to the same period in 2018, according to data from space research agency INPE.
Meanwhile, Brazil’s military on Wednesday was aiding efforts to combat the blazes in a remote area of Amazonas state. Military personnel joined firefighters spraying smoldering logs to prevent fires from restarting and spreading.
On August 24, Brazil’s joint military chief said that the country has some 44,000 troops stationed in its northern Amazon region that available to combat forest fires and could send more from elsewhere in the country. (REUTERS)
Bolivian President Evo Morales did an about-face on Sunday (August 25) and said he was now open to international aid to fight the blazes that have engulfed rural villages and doubled in size since Thursday.
Morales is also suspending his campaign for re-election for at least a week, just two months from election day, to focus on the wildfires.
“At no point have we closed ourselves off from offers of help to support us in the activities that we must carry out. The only offer that has been paid to the foreign ministry has come from the United States and they offered us experts,” Foreign Minister Diego Pary said.
The blazes burn unabated across vast swaths of hilly tropical forest and savannah near Bolivia’s border with Paraguay and Brazil. At least 1 million hectares, or approximately 3,800 square miles, have been impacted by the fires, officials said.
Morales’ government had been slow to accept the aid, initially saying it would use its own resources to fight the fires, but pleas from villagers and officials of Santa Cruz province led to an about-face. Argentina, Paraguay, Peru, Chile and Spain have all offered support.
Late on Sunday, a group of protesters gathered outside Morales’ home to demand more action.
Television footage showed out-of-control flames and opaque clouds of smoke engulfing villages, scorching savannah and farm fields dotted with wavering palm trees and ripping across hillsides.
Bolivia late last week contracted a Boeing 747 “Supertanker” from the United States to help with the fire-fighting, and has mobilized more than 2,000 firefighters, as well as small aircraft and helicopters. But the area affected by wildfire has nonetheless nearly doubled since Thursday.
Political rivals accused Morales of a slow response. Some have said his rural development policies have contributing to the problem, as farmers set the forest alight to clear land for pasture and settlement.
Thousands of wildfires are also decimating the neighbouring Brazilian Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest. The blazes have nearly doubled this year compared with the same period in 2018, prompting global outrage.
The Amazon basin’s vast forests are widely seen by scientists as a buffer against climate change.
Bolivia’s portion of the Amazon, while not as extensive, remains heavily forested. The Andean nation is one of the poorest in the western hemisphere but one of the richest in biodiversity. (Reuters)
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