By Bejay Browne
HOMEOWNERS in Limnes in Pissouri are appealing to the government to step in as dozens of houses are facing serious structural damage due to land slippage.
Damage includes cracks in interior and exterior walls, swimming pools, roads, pavements, footpaths, retaining walls, drains, water pipes and other infrastructure works.
The damage is ongoing and almost daily, according to homeowner Antony Walker, who has written to the minister of the interior to request that the government step in to help.
Walker, 69, a retired chartered quantity surveyor and expert witness, said that the damage is due to land slippage, resulting from a decade-long failure of successive authorities to provide adequate infrastructure to manage ground water, and allowing development to go ahead in the area.
He stressed it isn’t caused by poor building and construction standards.
Walker and his wife moved to Cyprus 14 years ago but have owned their five bedroom house for the last 25 years.
He told the Sunday Mail that he believes upwards of 50 homes, both Cypriot and British owned, may be affected in some way.
“The situation is seriously affecting our daily lives. We feel very anxious, as almost daily we hear sounds similar to a pistol shot and then find another crack,” he said. “Each time we are concerned as to how serious the next one will be. We can’t plan anything because we do not know how extensive the damage will be or what demands may be made on our savings.”
Lazros Lazarou, the community leader of Pissouri said that the problem in the area is huge and that the council is doing everything possible to help.
“We have spoken to the district office in Limassol many times and met with the Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos in March, he promised to do something.”
Lazarou said government experts have visited the area a number of times and carried out studies. He said despite numerous requests to the Limassol district office for information, details have not been forthcoming, so the council has organised a meeting with the minister of the interior and other officials, scheduled to take place in Pissouri on May 27.
“We hope they will inform us on what has been done and enable us to inform residents. People are suffering and they need to know what’s being done about it. We fully support the homeowners. To live in fear of losing your home is terrible,” he said.
Walker first noticed damage at his home about two years ago and according to experts appointed by an insurance company, other houses close by had already been affected.
“The side of the hill on which our part of the village is built has started to slip, exerting enormous force on houses below – effectively pushing our house down the hill and causing land to drop.”
The couple’s swimming pool has cracked from top to bottom and cracks regularly appear on floors and both external and internal walls. Doors and window are being distorted and some are becoming impossible to open or close, he said. External paving and boundary walls are also cracking.
Walker has already forked out more than 60,000 euros on intermediate repairs to try to slow down the progress of the damage, which he says is unstoppable and irreparable by an individual home owner.
He said that in order for the couple to remain living in their home, they also have to carry out a continuous programme of cosmetic repairs, filling in cracks as they appear.
The Walkers’ house was designed for them and constructed by a local builder in 1990. It was extended in 1997 and is not part of a development. He says that the builder is not to blame. The couple have title deeds for the land and the house.
“I am confident that the house was constructed according to law and in line with building requirements,” he said.
Walker said that a report by both civil engineers and the geological department put the problem down to uncontrolled ground water.
“The authorities have permitted large scale development here, but have failed to carry out infrastructure works either to manage the ground water, or to stabilise the hillside.”
He said that a similar problem affected another area in the village, which destroyed three houses. Civil engineering works there cost around six million euros to stabilise the hillside.
John Lamb and wife Linda moved to Cyprus from the UK 27 years ago and live close to Walker. Their bespoke home was completed in 1988 and an extension was added in 1998. They also have title deeds for their six-bedroom property, which was built by the same builder as the Walkers’ and the 85-year-old said no blame lies with him, as the property meets all building requirements.
“Our quality of life is being affected and the slippage may continue to the extent of making the property uninhabitable,” he said.
Lamb said that he first noticed separation cracks between the extension and original house about two years ago. Cracks appeared in the main building about three months ago. These run mainly across the centre of the building from wall to wall.
“They are now about 1 to 2 inches wide floor to ceiling and include the ceiling. Cracks are now in all rooms upstairs and downstairs excluding one of the rooms at the front and a toilet,” he said.
Lamb said that a recent report received from his insurers following two visits, the last of which was a month ago, found that the problems are being caused by slippage and settlement of subsoil.
“The authorities are to blame for this situation and action needs to be taken immediately to prevent further slippage, as well as repairs to existing damage.”
Walker said that his greatest concern is that the drainage pipes under his house, along with central heating pipes in the house will break, windows will shatter and that his house will soon become uninhabitable.
“I would like the authorities to carry out all the necessary work and pay for my house to be restored to its previous condition, or to be compensated to the full insured value of our house and land, so that my wife and I may rehouse ourselves in Cyprus.”
He added that fifty or so houses may need to be demolished and the land left fallow.
Lazarou said that the village urgently needs the government’s support, as the damage runs into millions.
“And they have to do this soon, if we go into another winter period some people may lose their homes,” he said.