State inspectors on Monda began assessing the considerable damage wreaked on the Ionian island of Cephalonia by Sunday’s 5.9-Richter earthquake even as aftershocks continued to rattle residents.
Schools were to remain closed for a second day Tuesday as checks continued on dozens of damaged buildings and roads were cleared of rocks that tumbled down during landslides.
The bulk of the damage was sustained by the western town of Lixouri and three villages with authorities deciding to evacuate one, Atheras, as a safety precaution.
The island’s archaeological museum in Argostoli also sustained serious damage, according to Culture Ministry sources who said that a large number of clay vessels had fallen to the ground and smashed during the quake.
Interior Minister Yiannis Michelakis led a delegation of government officials dispatched to the island and pledged to do everything possible to “help residents return to normal as soon as possible.”
He pledged 100,000 euros in state aid for the immediate needs of the islanders and the same sum for residents of the nearby island of Ithaca which was also affected by the quake. Another 100,000 euros for each of the islands’ municipalities has also been set aside. Residents of both islands were also extended a three-month amnesty from paying outstanding taxes and other debts to the state.
Despite the aftershocks that continued to shake the island on Monday, seismologists said it appeared increasingly unlikely that a stronger quake would hit the island as the intensity of the tremors was decreasing. But many jittery islanders were reportedly preparing to spend a second night sleeping in town squares or in their cars. The elder residents have not forgotten a 7.2-magnitude quake that struck the island in 1953, killing hundreds of people and destroying virtually all the buildings on the island.