Huge hole swallows car, street, truck

A huge hole opened up on a major suburban thoroughfare yesterday, swallowing a car and its driver (who escaped with a slight injury), damaging two houses and disrupting water supply for hours, in the latest mishap blamed on tunneling for the Athens metro’s extension. The road surface on Doukissis Plakentias Street in Halandri, near the junction with Phylis Street, suddenly collapsed at about 5 a.m. Anastassios Garetsos, 33, who was driving along Doukissis Plakentias, about 250 meters from where a new station is being built, found himself in a hole that was seven meters deep and seven-by-eight meters in width. He was pulled out of his crushed car by members of the fire department. But the hole kept growing, reaching a depth of 12 meters and a width of 10 by 15 meters. It cut through water lines and drainage pipes and swallowed the courtyard walls of two houses. A truck dumping gravel into the hole slipped partly into it. Previous incidents include a kiosk on central Panepistimiou Street being swallowed by a similar collapse, and the subsidence of the street outside the Economy Ministry. Those were blamed on old wells and tunnels – which were cited as likely reasons for yesterday’s mishap. The road was expected to stay closed for three days. If the construction company changes the way it tunnels, it will take up to 10 days to create concrete supports for the tunnel, metro officials said. «When such a major project is carried out in an inhabited area like Athens, with ground that has a lot of special features through its morphology or antiquities, it is not incredible that such incidents should occur,» Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou said. «Studies had been done. Measurements were taken very regularly, according to required practice. Until yesterday, there was no indication. We are waiting for the findings of the specialists. We have called on professors from the National Technical University of Athens, from the ministry and from the Attiko Metro company to tell us what is to blame.» Doukissis Plakentias is on the extension of Line 3 which will link up with the airport via a new suburban railway line in time for the 2004 Olympics.

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