Nikos Toskas, the Greek Deputy Minister for the Protection of Citizens, responsible for public order, was sacked on Friday, two and a half weeks after the fire that killed 88 people east of Athens. “The Prime Minister has accepted the resignation of Mr. Toskas,” said a spokesperson for Alexis Tsipras in a statement.
Last week, Mr Toskas proposed his resignation to Mr Tsipras, but the Prime Minister refused it. The prime minister’s office said he finally accepted it during “a brief meeting” with Mr Toskas, during which he “thanked him for the cooperation all these years.” The powers of civil protection were transferred to the Minister of the Interior, Panos Skourletis.
Mr. Tsipras has been under pressure since last week, for only acknowledging the “the political responsibility” of the fire, which spread quickly from a hill overlooking the town of Mati and its surroundings, to the city itself, built largely in a pine forest.
Targeted by opposition criticism, he went a week later to the scene of the disaster. However his opponents denounced the visit as a “lightning” tour aimed at “avoiding the wrath of the inhabitants.”
Opposition parties insisted that the government did not adequately warn the population of the danger, while very strong winds were blowing from the west, and had not made enough provision for a possible evacuation.
The extent of the human and material devastation, especially at Mati, has been attributed by authorities and experts to the violence of the winds and the anarchic urban planning of the area, developed in the middle of a pine forest. Many of the victims were caught by the flames as they tried to reach the beaches because of a lack of evacuation planing and access to the sea.
The death toll, which originally exceeded 90, was revised down on Friday to 88, with one missing, and 40 hospitalized, nine of whom are in critical condition.