Experts warn of more death traps in Greece due to illegal building activity

The deadly fires that struck eastern Attica this week killing 83 people have unveiled the extent of illegal construction activity in the area - a problem that exists in many other parts of Greece, experts say.

Poor planning, illegally built homes and dead end roads are being blamed for the high death toll in the seaside area of Mati as the victims got confused in the fire and where pushed back to the beach where most of them died of burns or drowned.

Constantinos Moraitis, assistant professor of architecture at the National Technical University of Athens, said that in many parts of the country, a similiar problem exists. Forest areas have been built in, often illegally, and with no planning in a move that has not been corrected by authorities, he said.

"Not only in Mati, but in many parts of Greece, the average Greek has given up on common logic. As if this is not enough, the formal state has for many decades considered that we could not experience such a crisis," Moraitis told Praktoreio FM.

This latest tragedy may have been avoided "if , over time, the illegal construction activity had been stopped or improved upon," he added

Apart from the threat of fires, the chaotic urban planning also creates deadly risks from flooding. The right steps could help corrrect the situation, though this would require a change in mentality from municipal and government officials which cannnot happen overnight, experts add.

Professor of dynamic tectonics and applied geology at the University of Athens, Efthymios Lekkas, said that Mati had a "trap" town plan that included roads that led to cliffs.

In comments to SKAI TV, Lekkas said that very few Greek towns have been built in an appropriate way, in terms of safety, and it was now a question of improving conditions that have been developing for the four to five decades.

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