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After wildfire tragedy, Greece establishes new civil protection mechanism

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In the aftermath of the July 23 wildfire tragedy near Athens which resulted in 93 deaths, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced on Thursday the establishment of a new civil protection mechanism.

Following heavy criticism by local administration officials and survivors that miscommunication and lack of coordination between relevant authorities, shortcomings and omissions in the state's response to the crisis contributed to the tragedy, the Greek government pledged imminent measures to correct mistakes of the past and ensure that such a calamity will not happen again.

The creation of an upgraded National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) which will replace the General Secretariat of Civil Protection which will be abolished, was one of the first steps in this direction, Tsipras said during a speech at the headquarters of Greek Police which was broadcast on Greek national television ERT.

"We decide, taken into account our experience as well as international experience, we decide today, to create an upgraded agency... so that we never again go through what we have been through lately, never again face the crucial and tormenting question I have mentioned before, whether we did whatever we should have done and we could have done," the Greek leader said.

The new agency will be an autonomous state agency subject to the Interior Ministry, and its head will be supported by a committee of experts from the Fire Brigade, the Greek Police, the Greek Red Cross, the Coast Guard, the National Ambulance Service (EKAB) and all the Greek science research institutes involved in natural disasters, among others, he explained presenting the new plan for civil protection.

The government has already ensured the total funding of the program for the radical reorganization and upgrading of the country's capability to be shielded from future natural disasters, the Greek premier stressed.

The earmarked funds, totaling 500 million euros (580 million US dollars) will come from the European Investments Bank, the NSRF and the National Program of State Investments. (1 euro=1.16 US dollars)

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