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Sat. May 25th, 2024

Greece has embarked on a three-day disaster response exercise on the picturesque island of Crete, underlining the necessity for both residents and tourists to be prepared for emergencies, ranging from earthquakes to fires. Dubbed “Minoas,” the exercise, which concludes on Wednesday, stands as the country’s most extensive disaster preparedness initiative, as confirmed by the civil protection ministry.

The scenarios simulated during the exercise encompassed a wide spectrum of potential disasters, including tsunamis, industrial accidents, and rescue operations for tourists. Participants emphasized the crucial importance of feeling safe amid such potential crises. Nikos Vlasiadis, the general manager of a prestigious five-star hotel near Iraklio, emphasized the significance of readiness, particularly in ensuring the safety of guests, staff, and business operations.

The exercise featured lifelike simulations, such as responding to a hypothetical 7.2-magnitude earthquake emergency, underscoring the evolving nature of disaster preparedness strategies. Efthymios Lekkas, the head of Greece’s earthquake planning and protection organization, stressed that the exercise aimed to identify and address potential shortcomings in disaster response protocols.

More than 160,000 residents, including approximately 80,000 schoolchildren, actively participated in the exercise, reflecting a broad commitment to enhancing community resilience. This collective effort is particularly pertinent given the seismic activity experienced by the island, with recent tremors, including a 4.9-magnitude earthquake last August, serving as stark reminders of the region’s vulnerability.

The initiative also emphasized the responsibility of tourism stakeholders in ensuring the safety of visitors. Efthymios Lekkas highlighted the importance of hotels having comprehensive emergency plans in place to safeguard guests in the event of natural disasters. Greece, with over 32 million tourists visiting annually, faces the dual challenge of maintaining its appeal as a tourist destination while prioritizing safety and disaster resilience.

In light of Greece’s susceptibility to earthquakes, owing to its geographical location along active fault lines, such preparedness exercises assume critical importance. Recent history, including the tragic events in October 2020 when a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck the Aegean Sea, underscores the imperative of proactive disaster mitigation efforts. The Greek government’s proactive measures, including offering compensation to tourists affected by wildfires on Rhodes, exemplify its commitment to safeguarding both residents and visitors alike.

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