Quake cleanup begins amid aftershock fears

As villagers in the Peloponnese salvaged what they could yesterday from homes and businesses that collapsed in Sunday’s 6.5-magnitude earthquake, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos chaired an emergency meeting with local authority officials to distribute compensation and assess damage. Pavlopoulos, who met officials at the airport in Andravida, the epicenter of Sunday’s quake, said the prefectures of Ileia and Achaia would receive immediate relief. Families who lost their chief residence in the quake would receive 3,000 euros each, he said. Local authorities will also get emergency funding to rebuild damaged infrastructure. As for accommodation for those left homeless by the quake, Pavlopoulos said the first prefabricated houses had been set up in the area already, adding that all emergency housing would be in place by Friday. Seismologists warned citizens whose homes have sustained damage not to stay in them. «Local residents should avoid remaining in building that have been characterized as requiring repair,» said Vassilis Papazachos, geophysics professor at Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University. As teams of state engineers checked damaged homes and schools for stability, archaeologists inspected ancient sites and museums in the region. Meanwhile, authorities sought to reassure worried residents of the region, many of whom suffered in last summer’s catastrophic fires. «The state will do everything necessary to ease the unfortunate consequences of the exceptionally powerful quake,» government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said. Antonaros confirmed that the earthquake had resulted in the deaths of two people. He added that more than 230 had been admitted to local hospitals since Sunday afternoon but noted that none were believed to have sustained serious injuries. Speculation of strong aftershocks abounded yesterday. Dozens of weak aftershocks – no stronger than 4.7 on the Richter scale – rattled the area but were hardly felt. Most experts said that an aftershock of 5 or 5.5 on the Richter scale was likely in the next few days, or possibly weeks. Speaking yesterday, the director of the Athens Geodynamic Institute, Giorgos Stavrakakis, did not rule out the possibility of an aftershock as strong as 6 on the Richter scale. Experts said Sunday’s quake was provoked by a 50-kilometer fault line at Kyllini.