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Most Homes Hit by Earthquake On Crete Can't Be Lived in Again

Αssociated Press

Residents stand outside a damaged house after an earthquake in Sampas village on the southern island of Crete, Greece, Monday, Sept. 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Harry Nakos)

Engineers inspecting homes shattered on Crete by a 5.8-magnitude earthquake said some 75 percent of them can't be lived in again and that there was massive damage to businesses, churches, public buildings and schools.

Some 1,199 structures were checked in the municipalities of Minoa Pediada, Archanes-Asterousia, Iraklio, Malevizi and Oropedio Lasithiou, including

Of the 995 homes inspected, 772 have been declared uninhabitable, and the ratio was the same for workplaces and churches as well as 71 of 74 warehouses surveyed found unsafe, said Kathimerini.

They also conducted checks on 18 schools, of which six have been declared unfit for use because there was so much damage from the quake, which killed one person and left 20 people injured.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis – whose family is from Crete – went there to see the damage for himself and promise relief is coming in an up to 30-million euro ($34.79 million) package for rebuilding what can be done safely.

It was a plan similar to those used after 2020 floods in Karditsa and wildfires that swept through Greece's next-biggest island, Evia, this summer that also wiped out businesses ranging from honey to other goods.

There were a number of aftershocks that further rattled buildings and people, many of whom had to sleep outdoors for a couple of nights, worried about being inside again.

The Athens Geodynamic Institute said the aftershocks had an epicenter 22 kilometers (13.67 miles) south southeast of Heraklion, Crete’s main city and the fourth largest in Greece.

The initial earthquake on Sept. 27 sent people rushing into the streets, damaging homes and causing rockslides. Local media said the victim killed was a 65-year-old builder who had been working inside the church when the roof collapsed on him.

Greece’s Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Ministry said it was “most probably the main earthquake,” and noted such events are followed by “intense seismic activity” in the form of aftershocks, which came quickly.

Greece lies in a highly seismically active region and experiences hundreds of earthquakes each year. The vast majority are small and cause no damage or injuries.

The repeated aftershocks  - described by witnesses as feeling like small explosions -  shook the area, adding to damage in villages near the epicenter.

“The earthquake was strong and was long in duration,” Heraklion Mayor Vassilis Lambrinos told private Antenna television.

International and domestic flights to Heraklion airport weren’t affected by the quake, while the region’s hoteliers association said there was no serious damage to any hotels in the area, which includes many popular holiday resorts.

Municipal construction vehicles helped clear a path for the emergency services, scooping up rubble and knocking down a badly damaged apartment block balcony.

“This is not an event that occurred without warning. We have seen activity in this region for several months. This was a strong earthquake, it was not under sea but under land and affecting populated areas,” seismologist Gerasimos Papadopoulos said on Greece’s state broadcaster ERT.

The European-Mediterranean Seismological Center and the U.S. Geological Survey put the preliminary magnitude of 6.0, with an epicenter seven kilometers (four miles) north of the village of Thrapsano. It is common for different seismological institutes to give varying magnitudes for an earthquake.

Before the damage had settled and could be determined, seismologist Efthimios Lekkas, who heads Greece's Earthquake Planning and Protection Organization, said inspections of critical buildings such as schools and hospitals were critical.

“We are urging people who live in damaged older buildings to remain outdoors. One aftershock can cause a collapse,” Lekkas said from Crete. “We are talking about structures built before 1970. Structures built after 1985 are built to a higher standard that can withstand the effect of an earthquake.”

Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides, who traveled to Crete, declared a State of Emegency. Local media said hundreds of homes had been damaged, including more than half the houses in Arkalochori.

Civil protection officials set up tents for residents whose homes had been damaged, with a capacity for up to 2,500 people to be housed.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)