Storms reveal failure

Poor workmanship, defective surveys, projects completed in haste, other projects never carried out at all, irregularities and extreme weather conditions will cost the country at least 600 million euros. The money will not come from any of those responsible, but from the state budget, in other words. A single, harsh winter has demonstrated that Greece has been propped up on toothpicks for years. Within minutes, roads and other pieces of infrastructure, many of which were considered vital and were also the most widely publicized projects in Greece, collapsed. The Cyclades, a major attraction in the country’s vital tourism industry, were caught unprepared for heavy downpours, since their infrastructure relied on dry weather. It will take 120 million euros just to repair the roads, for which the Public Works Ministry (YPEHODE) is responsible, and that doesn’t include repairs on the Corinth-Tripoli-Kalamata highway, a scene of biblical destruction. The Tsakona section of the Tripoli-Kalamata highway, which subsided, cannot be repaired and YPEHODE must build a new road. In other words, immense sums will be spent, possibly larger than the sums the ministry hoped to avoid when it abolished the technical specifications for bridges over valleys and replaced them with cheap but dangerous embankments on unsafe terrain. Things look better at Nemea, but the new studies required there and improvement of the bypass road (which will have to carry the main traffic for a long period) will be costly. They may be more costly than the two million euros needed to repair and reinforce the road, which was canceled in 1999 for lack of funds. A few days of bad weather made the country collapse. Eight Cycladic islands (Paros, Naxos, Tinos, Andros, Sifnos, Myconos, Serifos and Syros) are in a state of emergency. Crete, Evros, Evia, Samos, Achaia, Thesprotia, Larissa, Arcadia, Karditsa, Pieria, Argolida, Zakynthos, Fthiotida, Chios, Lesvos, Corfu and Preveza have all suffered from the weather’s impact on inadequate infrastructure. Residents couldn’t believe their eyes as they saw mountains move, roads changing direction and being torn like paper under the weight of the rain, and villages disappearing under the water. Now they are urgently requesting help from the State. The Evros Prefecture has requested more than 16 million euros from the Economy Ministry, and Crete another 23 million. There has been no estimate of the amount needed in the Cyclades and Evia, which were hit last. The Achaia Prefecture, one of the first hit by harsh weather, immediately declared a state of emergency, and so was able to overcome bureaucratic obstacles and carry out the task of diverting rivers and streams without delay. In a country that looks like a bomb site, the Cyclades are ground zero. Tinos has lost an estimated 70 percent of its roadways. Continual landslides block circulation in many places on the island, cutting villages off from the city. On Naxos, apart from the roads, the water supply and sewage systems suffered damage, while the island’s productive fields became lagoons. The picture was the same on Evia, where last week eight municipalities and one community declared states of emergency. Among them was Edipsos, where residents saw a mountain shift a full 10 meters, taking the road with it. Snow seems to have settled in throughout Greece. Dozens of mountain villages remain cut off, and municipal and prefectural work parties are working night and day to clear the roads. In many cases power cuts have made matters worse. The damage to agriculture and stock farms is immense. Early estimates say that compensation for the damage suffered in the past two months will amount to 53 million euros, but that sum does not include the damage of the past 10 days, which has not yet been assessed. Compensation for destruction caused by ice, floods and windstorms to citrus crops in the prefectures of the Argolida, Arta, Ileia, Hania, Aitolokarnania, Laconia and Achaia is estimated at 18 million euros. Olive groves in the prefectures of Aitolokarnania, Ileia, Achaia, Iraklion and Hania suffered similar damage, estimated at three million euros. Winter wheat in the prefectures of Evros, Rhodope, Kilkis, Kozani and Florina suffered 15 million euros’ worth of damage. Market garden produce throughout Greece were damaged to the tune of three million euros, while the loss of livestock to disease and floods is estimated at 1.5 million euros. Fish farms in western Greece, Macedonia and Thrace were damaged, as were agricultural installations and equipment all over the country. This damage, together with the excessive windfalls of citrus fruit in Ileia, Laconia and Achaia were estimated to cost 12.5 million euros in compensation if the European Union consents to Greece’s request for the money. However, there is a lot of money still owed in compensation for damage done in previous months. According to Greek Agricultural Insurance (ELGA) statistics, compensation for damage suffered by agriculture in 2002 may amount to 270 million euros, of which a large part has still not been disbursed. Of the compensation program for extreme weather conditions in January-February 2002, totaling 297 million euros, only 60 million euros have been paid out so far. As a result, the prices of fruit and vegetables have already skyrocketed.