Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Saturday announced a further 300 million euros to fight the effects of climate change, acknowledging the scale of the crisis facing the country.
He was speaking as the death toll from the week’s floods that swept across the centre of the country reached 17, including two Austrian tourists.
“Greece is facing a war in a time of peace,” Mitsotakis said in a speech in the northern city of Thessaloniki.
“Over a two-week period, we experienced the worst wildfire and the worst floods in our history,” he added.
“The climate crisis is here and forces us to see everything differently,” he said.
Reconstructing infrastructure was urgent, said Mitsotakis, announcing a 300-million-euro boost to a special fund for tackling the effects of climate change, bringing the total to 600 million.
The additional money would come from an increase in the accommodation fees charged to tourists, “especially in the very expensive hotels” he added.
The death toll from Storm Daniel, which swept through the central region of Thessaly, rose to 17, Athens News Agency reported Saturday.
DNA lab tests confirmed that two of the bodies found last week belonged to an Austrian couple missing for more than a week, said police sources.
Livestock, crops destroyed
The floods this week in the Thessaly region caused by Storm Daniel also drowned 110,000 farm animals and wiped out a quarter of Greece’s annual agricultural production, say experts.
And before that, northeastern Greece experienced a devastating blaze that raged for two weeks in the Dadia National Park.
The damage there accounted for almost half the total area burned by wildfires in Greece since the start of the summer, according to the European climate service Copernicus.
Fires across Greece this summer killed at least 26 people, most of them migrants trapped in a forest near the northeastern border with Turkey.
Mitsotakis also said there was a need for natural disaster insurance for both citizens and businesses.
He announced a 10-percent discount on the tax on property insurance and compulsory insurance for medium-sized and large businesses.
“It is time to start a public debate on the mandatory insurance of all homes and businesses,” he added.
The prime minister also addressed criticism from the opposition and other commentators that the government had not done enough to prepare the country for the summer’s extreme weather events.
He acknowledged there was confusion about who is responsible for what and a tendency to shift blame to others.
But he added: “Whatever we lost, as a state and as citizens, we’ll build back better.”