"We have never before experienced a phenomenon like that in Chalkidiki in terms of its rate and violence, two very important factors," Professor Efthymis Lekkas said on Friday, talking to the Athens-Macedonian New Agency (ANA) radio station 'Praktoreio 104.9' about the devastating storm that swept across northern Greece on the night of Wednesday to Thursday.
An expert in the management of natural disasters, Lekkas noted that the world was up against "new kinds of dangers" whose variables were largely unknown and had to adapt to their occurrence at ever more frequent intervals.
"We have a picture of what happened from the first moment but we are analysing the characteristics of the phenomenon and finding that it was unique. Every phenomenon is unique to some extent, of course, but what surprises us, surprises me personally, is that every time we face new kinds of dangers," he noted. As an example, he related a trip to Indonesia six months earlier, with a team of scientists, to study a tsunami that occurred without any preceding earthquake - something never been observed before.
"We have to forget the old emergency structures and everything that we knew up until now," he said. "We have to adapt to the appearance of new dangers whose dimensions and features we do not know, dangers that will become ever more frequent and will constantly have a greater extent and affect larger areas with greater intensity."
The forecast was particularly unfavourable, Lekkas stressed, while focusing on ways to mitigate the impact that such phenomena might have, noting that this could be achieved through a "modern civil protection system" and highlighting the need for "political will" in this direction.
He cited the 112 European emergency number, which has yet to operate properly in Greece, as typical of the bureaucratic obstacles that exist.
"When entire systems, such as 112, are cancelled by some bureaucrat...then we deserve our fate," Lekkas commented. "The 112 line does not go back to 2011 as was mistakenly said; its installation was proposed in 2003 when I was advisor to the General Secretariat for Civil Protection. It has been 15-16 years since that time," he pointed out, adding that "someone has to break eggs, there is no other way."
On what each person can do on a personal level, Lekkas said that self-protection was primarily about personal habits and processes and secondly about caring for one's environment, adding that it was something that anyone could do if they had the right information.
"Every Greek citizens must from now on reduce the vulnerability of his space, residence and workplace, each person must take more interest in his safety and can do much with information and discipline on an individual and collective level," he said, adding that it was important that people follow the official advice and "not do whatever they want".
Lekkas is a professor of Dynamic Tectonics Applied Geology and Management of Natural Disasters and head of the Geology and Geoenvironment Department at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, as well as head of the Greek Earthquake Planning and Protection Agency.