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A Disaster Waiting to Happen

“IF SOMETHING isn’t done soon then we could be looking at another Aberfan.” These were the words of Pat Ellis, a concerned resident of the rapidly expanding village of Peyia, near Paphos, referring to the 1966 disaster in South Wales in which 144 people died when a tip of coal waste slid onto the village. […]

“IF SOMETHING isn’t done soon then we could be looking at another Aberfan.” These were the words of Pat Ellis, a concerned resident of the rapidly expanding village of Peyia, near Paphos, referring to the 1966 disaster in South Wales in which 144 people died when a tip of coal waste slid onto the village.

The anxious residents of Peyia are mobilising to take action against what they feel is a disaster that is not waiting to happen, but is already happening.

Their complaints are numerous. With the rapid construction – over 7,000 new homes have been built in the past five years – local people believe that the safety, aesthetics, cultural traditions and quality of life in Peyia are being seriously jeopardised.

A few weeks ago torrential rains caused a landslide, that one resident described as being like “a tsunami of mud”. The cascade of mud ripped up the roads, destroyed gardens, and put one woman’s life in real danger. “Had it not been for the help of a van driver shielding this woman from the mudslide with the side of his van, she would almost certainly have been killed,” said Peyia resident Linda Leblanc.

Peyia is a growing village nestled in the hills overlooking Coral Bay. Over the past two years, it has become one of the places on the island to have ‘that place in the sun’.

About 25 per cent of its resident population is now non-Cypriot, and at the height of the tourist season this figure rises above 50 per cent. The rapid expansion seems to propagate a list of complaints which grows as fast as the building that so disturbs the villagers.

Water shortages, crumbling roads, unstable foundations, diverted rivers, messy building sites, lack of police and post office and a deterioration in the aesthetic beauty of the village, are just a few of the things that worry the inhabitants.

The greatest concern is the possibility that, following another bad rainfall, landslide or earthquake, some of these hurriedly built properties will come down considerably faster than they were erected.

A spokeswoman for the Peyia Community Association was recently quoted as saying, “Much of the land seems to be unstable and unsuitable for safe construction of the many new multi-storey apartment blocks that are under construction in Peyia. I dread to think what will happen if there is torrential rain or, God forbid, an earthquake.”

One would think that with the possibilities such as this, the property market would have dried up as fast as the diverted rivers. But the scale of continuing construction – much of Peyia is a building site – and the countless signs advertising the sale of plots of land and new apartment blocks, seem to contradict such an assumption.

David Ball, who has lived in Peyia for 17 years, told the Sunday Mail that apartment blocks five stories high are being built on dry river beds and six-month-old landfill sites. “I feel that some of the construction on such foundations should have been stopped. In the UK, the landfills have to be monitored for 25 years before they can be built on,” explained Ball.

Stelios Cristodoulou, from General Insurance, said that the company had received around 200 claims as a result of the recent rain with the total value in the region of £250,000. Half of these came from hail stones damaging cars, and the other half concerned water damage to property.

A few months ago a protest was held by developers, complaining of delays to the issuing of building permits by the local authorities. This represents the polar opposite to what Leblanc and Ball are concerned about. “We’re not against development, but let’s do it responsibly and in a sustainable manner,” said Leblanc.

Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2006

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