Some villages with a view are at risk of sliding away

Climatic changes are heightening the risk of landslides. This is the conclusion drawn by a team of specialists from the University of Patras, who claim that the gradual increase in rainfall in northern Greece may affect areas with friable soil and steep slopes. Most of the problems are apparent in an area of 6,000 square kilometers located in four prefectures. However, long-term research conducted by the Geology Department of Patras University shows that 70 percent of landslides both in Greece and abroad are due to human activities. «The quest for new places to build and the construction of major infrastructure projects are pushing people into areas that are geologically unstable or very steep,» Giorgos Koukis, head of the Geology Department, told Kathimerini. «But major projects (such as roadwork) are rarely built in the wrong place as long as they are constructed according to the right specifications. We see problems in the secondary and tertiary road grid and in certain villages.» As the university’s studies show, the majority of problems from landslides are in western Greece (and to a lesser extent in central Greece). «In western Greece, we have more recent geological formations, more rugged topography and greater rainfall, at least 1,400-1,500 millimeters a year,» said Koukis. «There is also intense tectonic activity, the chief feature of which is high seismicity.» Most of the problems emerge in the prefectures of Ioannina, Achaia, Ileia and the ranges of Karditsa. «As the climate in Greece changes, so the the danger of landslides increases in areas where rain falls more heavily and more frequently,» Koukis said. Landslides on Greek territory are not as intense as those in tropical countries and so can be dealt with by taking the appropriate measures. «In the 1950s and ’60s, some 500 settlements were moved. But this is now seen as an outmoded solution,» explained Koukis. «Nowadays, by taking appropriate measures (such as draining problematic areas and building proper foundations for houses) we can prevent or deal with landslides.» A typical case is that of Evrytania. Until the mid-1980s, 70 of the 166 houses in the area were at risk of landslides. «But the problems were dealt with because the Institute of Geology and Mineral Exploration (IGME) systematically studied Evrytania and specific measures were implemented. Now any landslides are only superficial.» Harokopi When the earth gave way in the village of Harokopi in Ioannina last weekend, it destroyed three houses that had been poorly sited. «The area that was hit lies between two roads, the regional road grid and a local road. There was no provision to channel water away from the regional road and the local road cut the slope in half,» said Koukis. «The result was that rainwater accumulated there and gradually made the ground subside.» Experts who rushed to the area say that the rest of the village is in no danger. The situation in the village is stable, according to Dimitris Mavrogiorgos, head of Civil Emergency Planning (PSEA) for Ioannina prefecture. All the same, two houses were evacuated as a precautionary measure and household goods in the damaged houses were moved. The leveling of Mikro Horio in Evrytania One of the most catastrophic landslides in Greece occurred on January 13, 1963 in Mikro Horio, Evrytania. A huge chunk of the Ailades range broke away suddenly and flattened 60 houses in the village, killing 13 people and injuring scores more. The landslide had such a dramatic effect that it created a small lake at the entrance to the village. Investigations conducted after the event found that the landslide was caused by a combination of very harsh weather in the winter of 1962-63, seismic activity at the same time, and the nature of the ground in the area. Following the destruction of most of Mikro Horio, the village was relocated. The new village was built, according to a plan, 2 kilometers away from the original site. The site of the old village is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Evrytania, as one of the most picturesque villages in the prefecture.

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