New roof for site still up in the air

The Culture Ministry’s Central Archaeological Council (KAS) has given the go-ahead for the construction of a new roof over the Akrotiri archaeological site on the island of Santorini almost three years after the structure caved in, killing a British tourist. Sources said yesterday that KAS met during a long session on Tuesday to decide whether to approve the new roof or whether to back a project that would see the old roof dismantled and rebuilt. However, KAS’s decision is just another small step on the road toward the site reopening as there is still no clear indication about when it will be able to receive visitors. The project to rebuild the roof is likely to take 18 months and J&P Avax, the construction firm awarded the task of carrying out the work, wants to get started in September. It is not clear if work will be able to begin even then due to a number of bureaucratic holdups. One major obstacle is that the results of a prosecutor’s investigation into the collapse of the roof have yet to be made known. Sources point out that if what caused the accident in the first place is not made known, then the construction firm cannot ensure that it does not make the same mistakes with the new roof. The huge steel roof covering the remains of the ancient Minoan settlement collapsed in September 2005 as workers were watering soil laid over it. Six people were also injured in the accident. The prehistoric town of Akrotiri was one of the chief urban centers in the Aegean until its destruction in a huge volcanic blast that hit the ancient Cycladic island of Thera in the 17th century BC. The site, a major tourist attraction on the popular island, has been shut since the accident after continual delays to repair the damage. Ministry sources said in 2006 that the repair work would be completed by October 2007. Last September, they said that the roof would be in place by the end of 2008. The new roof will have a bioclimatic design, which means that it will automatically adjust to climatic and environmental conditions, ensuring a comfortable environment for visitors to the site.