Gov't heralds measures for quake victims on Cephalonia

Greek authorities on Tuesday heralded a series of measures to tackle the fallout of two strong earthquakes on the Ionian island of Cephalonia, where hundreds of people have been left homeless.

Cephalonia is to be declared officially “earthquake-hit” in the coming days, a prerequisite for the release of further financial support and repairs. State funding will be provided to cover the rent of families who have been forced to leave their homes – for two years for property owners and six months for tenants. Meanwhile a program for repairs to damaged buildings is expected to be announced and the Development Ministry is to help municipal and regional authorities seek support from the European Union’s Solidarity Fund.

In the meantime there are plans to set up prefabricated homes for quake victims. On Tuesday some residents were moved to tents set up on a sports field near the port of Lixouri, which was particularly badly hit by the two quakes, measuring 5.8 and 5.7 on the Richter scale. Others were moved into two navy vessels sent to the island over the weekend.

Additional priorities are repairs to the island’s road and irrigation networks, Infrastructure Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis said during a visit to the island.

Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis and Education Minister Constantinos Arvanitopoulos were also on Cephalonia to inspect the state of hospitals and schools. Tourism Minister Olga Kefaloyianni was there too to herald the launch of a campaign to promote Cephalonia, a popular summer holiday destination for foreign visitors.

In Athens meanwhile the Labor Ministry said that entrepreneurs and employees on Cephalonia would be exempted from paying social security contributions for six months.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is on Wednesday to chair a mini-cabinet meeting to develop strategy for the island’s regeneration.

Meanwhile an investigation was launched into reports that a group of men posing as policemen warned residents in Lixouri to abandon their homes, claiming that a third earthquake was imminent.