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Daily Mail meets Pissouri landslide victims

Victims of the landslide in Pissouri that continues to destroy their homes and lives met with a reporter from the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper yesterday to recount their stories and tour the devasted area.

Pissouri landslide victims get the UK Daily Mail on their case YESTERDAY homeowners in Pissouri where a landslide continues to destroy their lives and homes met reporter George Odling and photographer Georgie Gilliard from the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper.

The two heard how the landslide had devastated many lives and put an enormous strain on people’s health, relationships and finances

Homeowners had sought medical help for the stress the situation is causing them, others had seen their marriage break apart, a mother with two young children whose marriage failed returned to the UK penniless and they are living in rented accommodation. She has applied for council housing and is currently on the waiting list.

One of the Cypriot families bought their Pissouri home with the aid of a mortgage from a bank. When it was damaged by the landslide, they asked the bank for a valuation. In 2015 the bank valued the property at €17,000 less €11,000 to remove the rubble, leaving them with €6,000. The valuer said he’d assessed the land as agricultural due to the geological problems in the area and noted (at that time)  that there was nothing wrong with the actual structure of the house. The bank reminded the family that, despite its low value, they had to repay their mortgage in excess of €200,000.

The landslide is moving daily. Homeowners have to endure constant breaks in their water, electricity and telephone supplies as the water pipes and cables continue break under the strain.

To date, seventeen homes in the affected area have been declared unfit for habitation and families have been forced to leave and find alternative accommodation.

Limnes: the red herring

The first area to be affected by the landslide was Limnes, which can mean lake when translated to English. This has given rise to numerous ‘fake news’ stories by elements of the media that the properties were built on land known for its lakes, which landowners filled in before selling, etc, etc. These stories are completely untrue. In fact Limnes is a relatively small part of the total area affected.

In addition to Limnes, the landslide affects other areas to the south of Pissouri village centre;  Sheromyli, Yiousouphis, Safires, Merika, Kalogeri, Merika, and Roes.

Map of Pissouri showing the area affected by the landslide from the Limassol District Office where Certificates of Approval and permits are no longer being issued.
Click here for a larger view of the map.

(Since I last visited the area in February, more homes have been affected. Kiminos street, which was passable in February, is now closed to traffic and the house at the top of the street close to the Pissouri amphitheatre, which was undamaged in February, looks close to collapse.)

Government response to the landslide

The Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides said that the complex was sold by “a single, well-known land development company which will now be relieved of its responsibilities”; this is patently untrue. (As he has not visited the area to see the damage for himself, I can only assume that he’s been given inaccurate information.)

The properties were designed and built by numerous architects, building contractors and property developers. (Some of those involved in the construction of the older properties have since died.) Independent structural checks carried out on the properties show there is no evidence of poor design or construction.

The Pissouri Housing Initiative Group (PHIG) commissioned an independent study by internationally recognised experts who concluded it’s a landslide triggered by uncontrolled groundwater and this was backed up by InSAR satellite imagery and analysis. A copy of this 22-page report, which contains the overwhelming and irrefutable evidence, is available on-line ‘Proving a landslide: ground behaviour problems at Pissouri, Cyprus‘ for US$30.

Reporter’s thoughts

After George and Georgie completed their interviews and tour, I asked George for his thoughts on what he’d seen.

“It’s a lot worse than I imagined.” He said. “Photographs can only tell you so much but seeing it in real life; it’s striking” adding that “It’s incredibly tragic to see what were obviously beautiful homes that people looked to spend the rest of their lives in under the Mediterranean sun crumbling like this”.

I asked him what he thought of the lack of support from the government. As he had yet to speak to the Interior Minister, he couldn’t comment. But he did say “It’s obviously disappointing that people feel they didn’t have the help they expected and feel they’re on their own.”

The full story should be published in the UK’s Daily Mail early next week.

The Daily Mail

The Daily Mail is the second largest selling newspaper in the UK. It has twice the readership of the ‘Daily Mirror’ and three times the readership of ‘The Times’. The Daily Mail also has the second largest on-line readership of any of the UK national newspapers.

Readers' comments

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  • Cp says:

    Government needs to get a grip of this now before it destroys not only the fate of the properties but the entire economical value of the area.

    Not one single person will ilk purchase one this goes viral in the no Cyprus press.

  • Antony Walker says:

    Shirley Spratley – The destruction of homes in south-east Pissouri is caused by landslide. There is no question of negligent construction or fraud.

    Landslide cannot be predicted fifteen, twenty or twenty five years in the future.

    All mention of negligence or criminality is fake news generated by the District Administration for their own purposes.

  • Shirley Spratley says:

    So many Cypriots have been getting away with fraud over many years it’s the norm here, such a disgrace no one accepts any kind of responsibility, people should be in JAIL because of this crime.

  • Troodos Man says:

    When a government is about to hand out 100’s of millions of Euros to people with bad loans (the “ESTIA” scheme), it seems very petty not to compensate these poor folk. Why don’t politicians just swallow their pride and do it?

    Never mind the tiny dent on governments coffers, just think about the positive impact when UK investors start to feel comfortable again about buying new homes in Cyprus.

  • Frustrated says:

    Like a well run company, a government needs to be proactive rather than reactive and even if crises appear out of the blue, those in charge of the ship of state have a duty to display leadership and act decisively.

    This President has been sadly lacking in just about every department of governance during his 6+ years at the helm. He seems to have adopted a do nothing policy or else appease those who shout loudest, the unions being a prime example. The saga of the Pissouri residents is yet another shining example of Anastasiades being silent, this time the Auditor General conveniently coming to his rescue.

    On that score, one has to question exactly what the Auditor General has got to do with whether or not the residents have a case. His task is surely to ensure that the finances of the state are in good shape and root out excess, corrupt practices, etc. and not determine policy or get involved in legal permutations as apply in this matter.

    As for behaving ‘shoddily’, the Pissouri residents are certainly not alone: the private sector as a whole, foreign domestic workers, thousands of real estate buyers still without title deeds and pensioners with paltry monthly payments come into that bracket. At the other end of the scale are the huge benefits doled out to public sector employees, parliamentarians, judges, unions et al. This latter group know not the meaning as they’re never the butt of ‘shoddy’ behaviour and instead are treated like royalty.

  • Antony Walker says:

    The Government knows the truth about southeast Pissouri, which is why the District Administration (DA) refuses to engage in conversation with representatives of the victims.

    The DA reuses to communicate in writing with the Village Council and refuses to provide minutes of meetings with the Council. Even when the Minister instructs the DA that the Council is to be represented on a Committee, the DA holds meetings without informing the Council.

    I am beginning to wonder if the Auditor General too is a victim. His press release in March was so absurd as to destroy his reputation for competence. Is a rival in Government using Pissouri to undermine the Auditor?

    There is something very odd going on within the Ministry of Interior, which you could not make up.

  • Joseph Parry says:

    The Geological Department of the Cyprus Government has written to the Minister of the Interior to inform him that the problem in Pissouri is that of a Landslide caused by uncontrolled Ground Water. The Auditor General does not appear to agree but as his background is Civil Engineering, he is hardly qualified to argue the fact.

    The Constitution of Cyprus, article 23 states that “The right of the Republic to underground water, minerals and antiquities is reserved” i.e. the underground water belongs to the Government.
    It seems to be very clear.

    Ed: The GSD advised the Interior Minister of the cause of the problem some time ago (2013/2014). But the Auditor General decided the problem was a result of “a single, well-known land development company which will now be relieved of its responsibilities”, which is patently untrue.

    The island’s already got a bad name due to the Title Deed-cum-fraud mess, crooks and charlatans masquerading as honest lawyers, property developers, estate agents, etc. It’s no wonder that Brits looking for a home overseas have turned their backs on Cyprus.

    This latest development could be the final nail in the coffin.

    But the island is now attracting non-English speakers – Chinese, Russians, etc. I wonder how long it will be before they get the message?

  • The views expressed in readers' comments are not necessarily shared by the Cyprus Property News.

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