Deadly rockfall closes highway

Falling rocks from the foothills of Mount Kissavos resulted in the death of an engineer and the closure for at least a month of the Athens-Thessaloniki highway in the Vale of Tempe in central Greece. Heavy rainfall had caused rocks to fall on the national road on Wednesday evening, prompting authorities to close the highway. However, when six engineers, including the 62-year-old Italian Sergio Siani, who headed the team from the Maliakos-Kleidi construction consortium, inspected the damage on Thursday morning, there was another rockfall. Siani was crushed as he sought cover behind his car and two others were injured. An investigation has been launched into the engineer’s death but sources said it is unlikely that the landslide was caused by the work going on about a kilometer away to construct a tunnel through the valley. The heavy rain in the area over the last few days is seen as the most likely reason for about 100 tons of rock falling onto the pavement. Experts from Switzerland, as well as Greece, have been called in to assess the damage and find a way of preventing it happening again. The cleanup operation has begun but it is likely to take more than a month for this section of the highway to be reopened to drivers. This is likely to cause considerable congestion in the area despite the fact that three diversions have been set up. Each day, some 12,000 cars pass through the Vale of Tempe, where the Athens-Thessaloniki highway narrows to one lane in each direction.

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