North Evia: Earth moves

Nobody in northern Evia will forget the winter of 2003, the year in which the «phenomenon» – as the locals call it – put in an appearance, when the earth heaved, moved mountains, redrew the boundaries of plots of land and cut off the area from the rest of the prefecture. On the national road near Aghia Anna, not even the traffic police’s warning sign could prepare us for what we saw. The asphalt road came to an abrupt end in a buckled mound that at points seemed to have swollen, at others to have subsided and at others again to have simply moved – and taken the erstwhile road to Istiaia with it. A sawmill to the left of the road was in virtual ruin. When we arrived, the couple who owned it were collecting a few last things before locking it up forever. Katholiki Fergadi had tears in her eyes. «We’ve been here for 20 years. Our children have played here since they were small. What will become of us now?» Climbing up the mountain that had covered the road, a horrific sight met our eyes. A two-story house had been swallowed up by the earth and the only thing that could be detected was its snowy roof. Chryssoula Kazani had lived in the house for the past 23 years. Fortunately, when the landslide occurred, she was at work in Mantoudi. «I’m on tranquilizers,» she said softly. «My house is gone.» She had asked the fire brigade and the municipality to help her collect a few things from within, but they would not risk it. «And I don’t want to have deaths on my conscience.» The destruction wreaked at Aghia Anna was huge, with damage to a farm machinery workshop, an olive press, and not a few acres of crops. The river of moving earth had caused vines and olive trees to change fields and owners. Further north, at Artemision, the most serious damage was «invisible,» according to Tassos Biris, a municipal engineer. Over 40 miles of the rural road network had been destroyed. Dozens of streams and watercourses had burst their banks to flood acres and acres of crops. «The damage is great, when one thinks that an olive tree costs 500 euros.» And the snow-covered landscape is cause for further anxiety, since when the snow melts, more damage will result.