|Wednesday, 29 November 2023|
The Hellenic Radio (ERA): News in English, 99-09-13
From: The Hellenic Radio (ERA) <ert.ntua.gr/>
 QUAKE TOLL RISES, FURTHER RELIEF MEASURES TAKENThe death toll from the September 7 earthquake in Athens has now reached 122, while at least 20 people are still missing. Rescue teams have not given up efforts to find possible survivors trapped under the rubble. Meanwhile, irresponsible rumours circulated yesterday about the possibility of an even stronger tremor, causing widespread fear among the quake-stricken population.
The rumours were categorically denied by seismologists who gave assurances that there was no cause for concern, and said the frequent aftershocks were a normal phenomenon. A strong aftershock measuring 4.2 Richter was registered at 9:15 yesterday morning, which according to scientists had the same epicentre with the original tremor. The environment, town planning and public works ministry is putting a final end to shoddy and illegal construction with the adoption of strict measures to maximise earthquake protection for new buildings. According to press reports, the measures will go into effect by the end of this year.
The ministry's teams are continuing their inspections of buildings in the hardest-hit areas, and according to reports they will have finished by this evening. So far, 37,155 buildings have been checked by the authorities. 18,401 buildings were described as safe, 14,628 are in need of repair and 4,126 will be demolished. A broad meeting of ministry and municipal officials was chaired yesterday by Interior Minister Vaso Papandreou to plan the next move in rebuilding schools and industries destroyed. Mayors were give one week to suggest new possible sites to relocate schools that suffered damage in the quake. She also called on local authorities to indicate the best spots for the erection of prefabricated housing for the homeless.
Education minister Gerassimos Arsenis said the inspection of school buildings in the quake-hit areas will be completed this evening. Reports so far said 15% of inspected buildings were judged unsafe and 40% in need of repair. Mr Arsenis said the damage was greater than expected. The education ministry has made special arrangements for students in Attica who had to sit repeat exams in September. The exams will be resumed on Monday, but students may not sit them and use their oral grades instead to pass subjects whose exams they missed because of the quake.
The Bank of Greece is examining the possibility of speeding up procedures for a drop of 2 points in interest rates, due to the increased demand for loans, in the wake of last week's earthquake. The decrease is expected to be implemented in October instead of December, as originally scheduled. National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos announced yest that conscripts due to begin their compulsory military service at this time may postpone it to a later date. He also ordered that 30-day leaves be granted to soldiers whose homes have been damaged by the quake. As assistance to quake-stricken employees, the Labour Ministry has decided to forgo social security payments for 6 months, for those who have been obliged to stop working temporarily, because of housing and other problems caused by the earthquake. A series of further favourable measures will also be taken to make the financial burden lighter on those seriously affected by the tremor.
Ethnic Greeks living in Australia have begun a campaign to collect relief aid for earthquake victims. Already the Greek community in Melbourne has raised $175,000. Impressive sums have also bleen raised at Greek Orthodox churches in Australia, on the initiative of Archbishop Stylianos. Scientists from the National Observatory recently took delivery of 20 new seismographs from Hamburg University and will place them at the epicentre of last Tuesday's quake to collect more data for better understanding of the recent phenomenon.
 FOREIGN MINISTERS DISCUSS GREEK-TURKISH RELATIONSAt their meeting last night in Finland, the foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey, George Papandreou and Ismail Cem, exchanged views on their respective efforts to deal with the repercussions of the disastrous earthquakes that recently hit both countries. They also stressed that the mutual solidarity displayed between the two countries at this critical time had significantly contributed to an improvement in the climate of Greek-Turkish relations.
 EU AID FOR ATTICA RECONSTRUCTIONIn the meantime, the European Union ECOFIN council in Finland has responded positively to a letter from the Greek prime minister, Costas Simitis, who had called on the EU to cover part of the cost, estimated at 200 billion drachmas, for the reconstruction of Attica. Foreign Minister Papandreou and Deputy Foreign Minister Yannos Kranidiotis are to raise the issue of special funding before the EU general affairs council meeting in Brussels today.
 CYPRIOT PRESIDENT TO MEET WITH GREEK LEADERS IN ATHENSCypriot president Glafcos Clerides is expected to arrive in Athens today, where he will have talks with Prime Minister Costas Simitis and President Constantine Stephanopoulos. Mr Simitis and Mr Clerides will discuss the American proposal for an informal meeting with the Turkish prime minister Bulent Ecevit, Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and the president of the United States, Bill Clinton, in November, in Constantinople.
Subsequently, president Clerides will go the United States, where he will have a meeting with the United Nations secretary-general, Kofi Annan, to discuss the long-standing Cyprus dispute. In a related development, ways of overcoming the negative stance displayed by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to any serious efforts to settle the Cyprus dispute, are being investigated by the UN secretary general, in collaboration with the 5 permanent members of the UN security council.
On September 15, the UN security council will be briefed by the secretary general's representative, Ann Hercus, on further developments in the Cyprus problem. Decisions on further steps will be made at informal consultations with Mr Annan.
 COURT RULES OUT HIGH PUBLIC POSITIONS FOR EU CITIZENSThe Council of State -- Greece's highest adminstrative court -- has issued a decision, rendering illegal a draft presidential decree. The decree concerns the hiring of European Union citizens to high positions in the public sector.
 NEW OA CIVIL AVIATION BOSS REVEALS PLANSThe new managing director of Olympic Civil Aviation, Rod Lynch, yesterday announced that the hiring of new personnel and the re-allocation of existing staff were part of his new plans for the company. He also ruled out the possibility of lay-offs.