Here in Greece, there’s daily proof that these are totally disconnected times. In Athens, politicians and decision-makers vie for public attention with a seeming indifference that is almost unbelievable. Meanwhile, one human catastrophe after another further separates the people from their leadership. The latest case, a horrific accident on Gavdos Island, tells the tale.
A few days ago the 27-year-old college student from Corfu died of injuries sustained in an auto accident on remote Gavdos Island, south of Crete. The girl reportedly clung to life for hours after plummeting 90 meters off a cliff in an auto driven by a friend. Korina, whose last name is being withheld, sustained serious injuries that could only be treated at a major hospital and clung to life for several hours waiting for evacuation from the island. Witnesses at the scene claimed she lived with uncontrolled bleeding and a massive lung injury, for as long as 6 hours after the crash.
In a bitter irony, Korina’s story has barely made the news, but thirteen hours ago Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced proudly a donation by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation of helicopters and aircraft to assist in patient transport from remote regions. Commenters on the prime minister’s Facebook were livid in response. With one foul-up after another coming in the news these days, Mitsotakis is under heavy fire from every sector.
Gavdos is a mountainous and very remote island, the southernmost point of Europe, which lies 26 nautical miles (48 km) south of Chora Sfakion, Crete. The island is about 57 kilometers south-southeast of the Hellenic Coast Guard station at Palaiochora. But, the Coast Guard at Paleochora is underfunded, even the headquarters seems to double as a sidewalk cafe if Google Maps are correct (above). So, the chances of rescuing this poor girl in time were probably hopeless from the onset. I only wonder if her companion, she, or other visitors to the island are aware of this situation?
According to the medical examiner, Stamatis Belivanis, the young lady suffered a ruptured lung, a condition he says she could not have survived with for so many hours. Her travel companion, who blames himself for the accident, joined others at the scene saying it took authorities 5 or 6 hours to arrive on the scene. But the point is, she might have been saved had there been a system in place for such situations. And this is the situation overall, here in Greece. There seems to be no planning in place.
In another point of sad irony, my own country’s navy has been so active around Crete these last few months, but Greece’s relationship with our armed forces does not seem to extend to saving lives. As of yesterday, the US Navy destroyers USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) and USS Roosevelt (DDG-80) were at Souda Bay. And Greece’s PM was just given a tour of the Aircraft Carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower a few days back. The Seahawk helicopters from such ships have a speed of 270 km/h. From Souda Bay to Gavdos it’s about an 18 to 20-minute flight one way. But, maybe it’s a stretch to suggest NATO intervention in such a case?
Korina was laid to rest on Corfu yesterday. Her family and friends gripped in disbelief that she could be at her studies or exploring Crete one minute, and gone the next in a freak accident. She was an architecture student in her senior year at the Technical University of Crete. As I write this I wonder why our leadership does not have in place contingencies for everything by now. Isn’t this what they promised and what we’ve all paid for? Clearly, it’s not.