Buildings intensify quake risk

Earthquakes are more of a threat to Greek towns now than they were last century due to sprawling and often unsound construction work, seismologists said yesterday. Fortunately, three in four Greek earthquakes have their epicenter in an undersea area, otherwise they would wreak much greater damage, experts told a forum at the Goulandris Natural History Museum in Athens. Costas Markopoulos, professor of seismology at Athens University, proposed the creation of a register of building contractors as well as regular inspections on the quality of building materials. «If the state conducted tests on samples and penalized violators, we would have fewer problems,» he said. According to National Technical University Professor Panayiotis Karydis, houses built before 1959 are mostly sturdy, those built between 1960 and 1984 sometimes have structural problems, and those built after 1985 are generally in line with anti-seismic regulations. Karydis criticized illegally constructed houses as «stone coffins, legalized for the purposes of generating revenues.»