3.2 mln buildings face quake risk

A stunning 80 percent of all of Greece’s buildings need to be reinforced to withstand earthquakes despite stringent building regulations which have been in place since 1985, experts warned yesterday. During a conference focused on boosting anti-seismic measures, the president of the Technical Chamber of Greece, Yiannis Alavanos, said that four-fifths of the estimated 4 million buildings in Greece – almost all of which were built before 1985 – were not strong enough to withstand quakes, which occur regularly in the region. He said the seismic activity of certain areas had been underestimated when the buildings were constructed and there had been a lack of scientific knowledge ensuring they were sturdy enough to survive quakes. Some 3.2 million buildings built before 1985 need to be bolstered, according to figures released yesterday. Strict anti-seismic building regulations were brought in 20 years ago, in the wake of several deadly earthquakes, including one measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale in the Alkyonides islets, east of Athens, in 1981 when over 22,000 buildings were damaged beyond repair and 20 people died. Experts put the cost of bringing pre-1985 buildings up to scratch at anywhere between 5 and 50 percent of the value of the property in question. Alavanos and his colleagues suggested that the government should bring in tax breaks and encourage the introduction of low-interest loans for property owners looking to reinforce their homes and businesses. The last major earthquake in Greece – and the deadliest in decades – hit Athens in 1999, when a number of buildings collapsed and 143 people were killed. The quake registered 5.9 on the Richter scale.