Eight cleared of ‘99 earthquake deaths

Eight people were cleared yesterday of responsibility in the collapse of an apartment block in northern Athens that killed seven people six years ago during one of the most destructive earthquakes to hit Attica. Those on trial include the owner of the Nea Philadelphia building’s basement, representatives of the Dia supermarket chain and civil engineers. They were accused of modifying the block so the ground floor and basement could be used as a supermarket, which, it was claimed, resulted in weakening the building’s structure. However, after an eight-month trial, an Athens court yesterday cleared all eight of any charges. Seven residents died and one was seriously injured when part of the building collapsed during the quake, which measured 5.9 on the Richter scale and struck Athens on September 7, 1999. A total of 143 people were killed in the quake. In March, an Athens court ordered the prefecture of eastern Attica to pay a total of 1.5 million euros in compensation to the families of four of the 39 people killed in the Ricomex household goods factory that collapsed in the northern suburb of Metamorphosis during the same quake.