Alex King - 1 August 2018
The day after wildfires tore along Athens’ east coast, I was stuck in a traffic jam. We were sitting in the seaside town of Mati, the epicentre of the inferno, where at least 91 people are known to have died. Some trees were still smouldering. Many of the houses were blackened shells, others looked like they had been hit by cruise missiles.
Many stuck in the jam were ordinary people; Greeks who had loaded up their cars with supplies and driven out to help. They were motivated not only by a heartfelt empathy for those chased from their homes by fire but, most tragically, by a lack of faith in a hollowed-out, austerity-ravaged state to meet victims’ basic needs in the disaster’s aftermath.
As grief has turned to anger, the parallels with last summer’s Grenfell Tower fire which claimed 71 lives are becoming increasingly apparent. The more we learn, the more we realise these are not freak accidents: the unacceptable death tolls in both the Athens seaside town and the Kensington tower block are a direct result of neoliberal government policies; a withered state that abandoned its people and left them to burn. These are the fires of austerity. And, as always, the charred remains are those of people like us.... See more
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