The truth about Akrotiri three weeks after accident

Three weeks after part of a shelter over the archaeological site of Akrotiri on the island of Santorini collapsed, killing a British tourist, director of excavations Professor Christos Doumas has taken a stand on the events surrounding the accident, which led to a clash between the government and the opposition. «It is regrettable that this incident was blown up into a crisis,» said Doumas in a long letter to the press in which he set out details of the project and its cost. «Many of those familiar with the facts and many who know nothing about them, both prominent and anonymous, private individuals and journalists, have expressed views about the incidence that at best show their lack of knowledge; as a result, the truth has been distorted,» he said. Some reports indicated that the entire shelter collapsed, not just a part of it. The professor clarified that just one section, comprising about 5 percent of the total, actually gave way. Doumas explained that the columns that support the drainpipes «appear to be undamaged, which makes it easier to take temporary measures to protect the exposed section of the site.» He said it was difficult to fully evaluate the damage sustained by the monument before the state-appointed committees complete their work. «However, given that a major part of the collapsed section fell onto an open area it is believed that the damage will not prove to be extensive and at least not irreversible,» he said. Doumas admits that the monument is in immediate need of protection as winter advances and hopes that the authorities assigned to the investigation will complete their task quickly so that no more time is wasted. The professor recalled that the proposal to replace the old shelter and its inclusion in the 2nd Community Support Framework (CSF) was approved on February 2, 1996. The Culture Ministry approved the design in 1998 and a competition for the construction was announced in the European Communities gazette and in the Greek press in May 1998. A 1999 competition was budgeted at 3,100 million drachmas and subsidized by the CSF2 with 3,513,429,719 drachmas (10.3 mln euros) for a quarter of the total. A contract was signed with two consortia, J&P and AVAX-GNOMON-IMPREGLIO on November 30, 1999. Another quarter of the project was funded in 2001 with 10,271,460 euros from the 3rd Community Support Framework and the remainder in 2004 with a final subsidy of 20,013,590 euros of credits from the Public Investments Program. «We should mention here that the conventional budget is that provided for in the contract with the consortium without any additions,» said Doumas. To those who claim the project has been an expensive one, Doumas has this to say: «Of the total credits of 40,595,922 euros, 546,550 euros were set aside for expropriations, 3,232,173 were for excavation of foundations (150 in all). Another 586,941 euros is earmarked for further construction. Considering that the remaining 36,230,258 euros include outlay for all the above, then the cost for the entire 14,000 square meters is less then 500 euros per square meter,» he said. Culture Ministry experts who visited the site last Friday are to issue their report within three months. Repair of the damages and the resumption of work has been suspended pending an order from the public prosecutor.