Defence Minister Panos Kammenos has made statements that were widely viewed as unacceptable and provocative in an interview with a foreign news outlet.

Speaking about the deadly fire in Mati, Attica, he attributed blame to the residents of the area, charging that they had “occupied the beachfront”.

In an interview with the BBC, Kammenos attempted to shake off any responsibility, asserting that, “I am not responsible.” He noted that the Fire Service does not operate under the authority of the defence ministry.

In an effort to explain the stance of the armed forces, he said that they were in a state of readiness from the first moment, but that they were obliged to follow the Nato plan and not to operate independently.

Asked about the 26 people who were burnt alive, as they were trapped in their effort to escape the fire and reach the beach, he attributed the deaths to “crimes of the past”, because, “In Mati and on this coastline of Attica, most of the residences have been constructed without a permit.”

They have occupied the beachfront without abiding by the law,” he said, essentially asserting that it is the residents of the area who are guilty.

“After such a tragedy, the time has come for them to understand that it is dangerous for them and their families not to abide by the law and follow rules,” he said.

Asked if he believes that the government could have done more, Panos Kammenos responded curtly, “No”, adding that the armed forces, the police, and competent services acted “with a plan at the appropriate moment”.

“The mayor of Rafina told us that there may be more than 100 dead,” the BBC reporter told Kammenos. “It may be so,” the minister replied.

Kammenos, when confronted by the strong protests of local residents during his visit to the area yesterday, said that things went well in his area of responsibility, because there were only five people dead [who had drowned] at sea.

Kammenos did not apologise in any of his statements. On the contrary, he blamed others, but not the incompetence in managing the crisis.

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