NEWS

Playing a waiting game, for floods, and help

No one went to sleep the night after the first rainfall in Zacharo since the fires. Sandbags have been piled in the village streets for days in expectation. «After all, it used to flood here even before the fires,» said Antonis, a retired policeman who is in charge of distributing food to the fire victims, adding that there has been talk of installing a flood alarm. Zacharo is a flat town, but the slopes of the surrounding mountains are now bare of trees. Antonis has talked to experts who have visited the area. «They said that if it rains even for just two hours, the water will be 2 meters deep here,» he said. The only person hoping for rain is Loukas Hatzimichalis, a Cypriot civil engineer whose team is rebuilding the village of Artemida for the Cypriot government. «I want to see where the water will run,» he explained, «so as to find a way to route it outside the village, so that there will be no future damage.» Hatzimichalis has only been in Artemida for 10 days but has already begun work. The streets are now clear of cinders and ash and most endangered homes have been saved from collapse. After initial doubts, the local people are now confident that they are doing their job properly. They say that Hatzimichalis is perhaps the only person who was not shocked by what he saw when he arrived in the village. He showed us why. On his mobile telephone are photographs of villages in Cyprus that were in a similar condition to Artemida when he took over. «Give us a year,» he tells the people. «It’s not asking too much, is it?» If things go the way Hatzimichalis plans, the inhabitants of Makistos, the next village, will be envious indeed. Five brand-new earth-moving vehicles are parked in a field outside the village. At the village coffee shop, locals laugh about «how work is going.» One man says that the Public Power Corporation is charging 500 euros to connect his container home to the power grid. Work has not yet begun on rebuilding his own home. The chief engineer is there walking up and down shouting into his cell phone, but has no workers. There is no electricity, running water or sewerage system in the village, nor do these appear to be forthcoming.