Just hours after charges that government cadres knew that people had died on the night of the wildfire tragedy, Interior Minister Panos Skourletis and Infrastructure Minister Christos Spirtzis conceded that the prime minister learned of unconfirmed reports of deaths last Monday, “but the cameras had already left”, suggesting Tsipras learned of the deaths only after his televised conference with competent officials.
The new line of the government – in an attempt to cover for the prime minister for the communications show on Monday at the meeting of the Coordinating team, where there was no reference to dead people – was articulated by both Spirtzis and Skourletis.
“The prime minister learned that there are unconfirmed reports about dead people after the cameras had left from the Operational Centre last Monday,” said Skourletis, thus justifying the fact that the PM made no reference to the dead. He said New Democracy’s charge that the government covered-up the victims is unfounded and not serious.
“Once the reports were confirmed, the government spokesman came out after midnight and offered a briefing about the dead,” Skourletis said. He said nothing would have changed anything if the briefing occurred an hour earlier or an hour later.
Spirtzis took the same approach. He said the prime minister did not refer to the dead last Monday night, because the corroboration of the reports about dead people came only after the television cameras had left.
Shipping Minister Panagiotis Kouroumplis said that he had heard reports of dead people but that they had not been corroborated.
Spirtzis justified the silence of the prime minister, noting the information was supposedly uncorroborated, even though Coast Guard underwater disaster divers (OYK) had formally informed both the political and military leadership about the existence of victims.
Spirtzis said that the information was just coincidentally corroborated right after the ERT state television cameras left. He did not explain why Alexis Tsipras said nothing about deaths in his remarks after midnight.