River won’t stay down

Furious residents of the southwestern suburbs along the banks of the Kifissos River mopped up the damage yesterday after their homes and businesses were swamped by floodwaters for the third time in 40 days on Tuesday. The government, smarting under the residents’ and opposition’s charges of incompetence and indifference, announced a series of measures aimed at preventing future flooding. But Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou had little comfort to offer. «The residents of the area as a whole will live in a dangerous situation» until work aimed at reinforcing the river’s banks is completed, she said. She admitted that construction works were problematic, adding, «We cannot go back on this now.» Engineers say that the project broadening the river, which receives much of the runoff of Attica’s waters, has four major problems: The works are being carried out upstream first rather than downstream, which means that whereas the river can deal with large amounts of water, it suddenly gets narrower and the banks lower where work has not been carried out, forcing the water to surge into neighboring areas; contractors have not been clearing the riverbed of rubble, creating further obstacles; low-lying bridges force water into the streets; the authorities did not realize that the above three factors were so severe that it takes no more than average rainfall, like Tuesday’s, to cause a flood. Papandreou told Kathimerini that the contractors were not to blame and she mentioned the need for more money to speed up work – part of which is to be done by October 15. The measures announced yesterday oblige contractors to have workers on 24-hour standby to deal with any problems; the municipalities of Rendi, Moschato and Piraeus will get emergency personnel who will be on 24-hour alert; when heavy rain is expected steel gates will prevent water from bursting onto streets crossing the river; any barriers (such as railings) on bridges will be removable so as to minimize the obstacle to the floodwaters; the Katsonis Street bridge will be removed while others will be replaced; government workers will advise and help local residents whose property has been damaged; additional compensation may be awarded to residents. Yesterday, former police chief Ioannis Georgakopoulos took over as Civil Defense Agency general secretary. His predecessor, Dimitris Papanikolaou, was sacked on Tuesday. The agency had lowered its state of alert just before the rain and Papanikolaou was on holiday. Georgakopoulos was dismissed as police chief last year after his men botched an ambush, allowing a dangerous killer to evade arrest. With regard to identities, it is said that among those suspected of involvement in the Revolutionary Popular Struggle (ELA) and its «subsidiaries,» are well-known names, although none of them play a role in public life. Even if many of them are not convicted, because of the statute of limitations on crimes (20 years for murder and 15 for others), the authorities want to disclose both their identities and their activities, so as to show the public precisely who was involved in terrorist activities.

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