Public buildings are lacking in earthquake protection

THESSALONIKI – A group of experts from Thessaloniki University who are conducting a pilot program to examine the ability of schools and hospitals in Macedonia to withstand earthquakes, was reduced to consulting the telephone directory recently to find out information about schools. The head of the team, Professor Giorgos Penelis, reveals that the first thing the experts found when they embarked on the program was that the Greek State keeps no record of its buildings. There’s no «archive that shows where the schools are, what their area is and when they were built.» Implementation of the first stage of the pilot program was the main topic of a meeting the regional administration of Central Macedonia held on May 31. Penelis said the program had revealed a lack of organization: «The primitive procedures we found showed that the State must commission such surveys.» The September 9, 1999 earthquake sparked a study of seismic precautions for public buildings throughout Greece. The pilot program in Central Macedonia started in late 2001, looking into how earthquake-proof Thessaloniki’s hospitals and junior high schools were. So far, 120-150 of approximately 400 buildings have had a cursory visual inspection, the first of three steps in grading a building. Depending on the grade it receives, a building may be subject to closer examination. The team also made a comparative study, looking at gradings, repairs and expenditure for 5,870 buildings inspected after the 1978 Thessaloniki earthquake. As part of the pilot program, the Thessaloniki Town Planning office recorded 2,457 buildings which are in use by the public. Of the packaged products, 144 were virgin olive oil and 14 were must and vine leaves. Altogether, 65.2 percent contained agricultural chemical residues, with 2.5 percent containing residues in excess of the permitted level.