Lesser-known effects of 1999 earthquake

Most people are aware that the catastrophic quake that struck Attica on September 7, 1999 destroyed tens of thousands of homes (72,906 to be precise) and a few large factories – Ricomex, Faran and Fourlis – killing dozens of workers. Yet very few people, and apparently not even the State itself, are aware that thousands of smaller businesses spread over Western Attica sustained serious damage, perhaps proportionally far greater than that wreaked on homes. Despite the damage they suffered, not only to property but also to materials, not to mention lost working days, they received no assistance. Any state aid provided to the earthquake victims was channeled to homeowners and to larger businesses. When referring to earthquake damage, people nearly always think of the effect on buildings. In fact, the economic and social costs in terms of higher unemployment, reduced consumer demand, and changed production processes are much greater and more long term. A survey by the Harokopeio University for the Organization for Earthquake Victims’ Rehabilitation (OASP) has highlighted precisely these invisible effects of the quake on what were already major economic and social problems in Western Athens. It also reflects the bizarre, quasi-legal «Greek» – and generally southern European – way in which small and medium-sized businesses operate.