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Fears over building high-rises on shaky ground along Larnaca seafront

The Phinikoudes beachfront

Following the geological survey department’s appraisal of the ground on Larnaca’s seafront as being unable to support high-rise developments such as the planned 22-storey Kition building at Phinikoudes, an independent expert body will be tasked with determining final approval.

In an announcement on Wednesday, Larnaca municipality said that in view of the alleged dangers of the construction of high-rises, it has proposed that a “mandatory and detailed geological/geotechnical study is carried out by an experienced body for the assessment of the structural plan or the plan to reinforce the subsoil,” in order to assess the safety of buildings before the approval of licences.

The independent expert will be assigned from the Cyprus Scientific and Technical Chamber (Etek), the municipality added. The body will work in cooperation with government and municipal officials in an ad-hoc committee tasked with the drawing up of a framework for the licensing of high-rises and large-scale development in Larnaca.

The municipality’s concern stems from the red light given last May by the geological survey department in response to the construction licence application filed by development company QN Developing Ltd to for the construction of the Kition high-rise in the Phinikoudes area.

According the geological survey department, the building of high-rises on the Larnaca seafront is problematic in geotechnical terms as the soil cannot take the weight of towering buildings, implying that it is best that Larnaca is kept off the seafront high-rise development map.

Specifically, the department’s evaluation showed that “the presence of a phreatic zone composed of brackish water, as well as the presence of very thick loose deposits,” in combination with frequent earthquakes experienced in the area and the addition of the heavy load of a high-rise building, creates a high possibility of “the catastrophic phenomenon of soil liquefaction”, which would cause the building’s collapse.

According to the seismic zoning map of Cyprus, revised by the geological survey department in October 2014, the Larnaca seafront is located in the zone of highest seismic danger.

During the past 20 years, 146 earthquakes were recorded in Larnaca, 32 of which had a magnitude of over 3, and four earthquakes measured over 4.

While the zone of highest seismic danger includes most seaside areas in the of the island such as Famagusta, Paphos and Limassol, the frequency of earthquakes in Larnaca, in combination with the geotechnical specifications of the soil of Larnaca’s seafront, renders the specific seaside town incompatible with high-rises, the geological survey department found.

As such, it concluded that the rampant raising of high-rise buildings, as is the case in Limassol, will burden the already unstable subsoil on the Larnaca seafront.

“It is practically impossible to fully calculate the consequences from the disturbance of the balance of the soil, which will inevitably occur through future heavy load development,” the department said.

Despite the warnings of the geological survey department, the Larnaca municipality, which currently has eight pending applications on behalf of high-rise seafront development projects for construction permits, has remained adamant in its attempt to find ways to secure licensing.

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