Cyprus Mail

Could the audit-general please answer some questions for Pissouri residents?

One of the damaged homes

It is reported in the Greek language Cypriot press that the auditor-general wrote to the attorney-general on 22 March 2019 a letter in which the former de facto asserted that the whole cause of the destruction of homes in southwest Pissouri was attributable to errors in structural calculations made by every single one of the 20 or so ETEK registered structural engineers who designed the substructures of homes in southwest Pissouri between 1980 and 2005.

May I suggest please, that you invite the auditor-general – himself a civil engineer – to provide the people of Pissouri, and Cyprus generally, with non-technical answers to a few questions, namely:

  1. When did he himself visit Pissouri to view the destruction of homes, and what discussions did he have with the village council?
  2. Why does he refer only to the unstable area as “Lakes” (‘Limnes’ originally meant lakes or small brook or water spring) when a committee of the House of Representatives recently identified that the whole of southwest Pissouri – about one million square metres – is unstable due to landslide?
  3. What action has the auditor-general initiated to have “struck off” the 20 or so structural engineers who, he implies, have brought Etek membership into disrepute due to “criminal” (his reported word, not mine) wrongdoing?
  4. No reputable expert invited to survey southwest Pissouri has attributed the destruction of homes to design error. On the contrary, every reputable expert including the distinguished Cypriot engineers Mr Petros Evlogimenos and Mr Costas Meletiou identified landslide as being the cause of damage as did the world-renowned Geomorphologist Dr Gareth Hearn – supported by the Senior Geological Survey Department Official Dr Kleopas Hadjcharalambous, and also the Geological Society of London, by publishing “Damage Caused by Slow Landslide in Pissouri”. All these opinions have been confirmed incontrovertibly by InSAR satellite imagery. Experts analysing the 2001 Pissouri landslide, located immediately next to the present landslide, identified a causal link between that landslide and the surcharge of the natural aquifer under Pissouri. Dr Hearn stated that the probable cause of the present landslide in southwest Pissouri is uncontrolled ground water. The government’s own experts, the Geological Survey Department’s email dated 13 November 2018 attributed the cause of the landslide to the failure [of the state] to provide a ground water management system. Why does the auditor-general assert, apparently, that all these experts are wrong?
  5. What is the causal link between structural calculations carried out in 1984/85 for a home in Kiminos Street and the 700 – yes, seven hundred – breakages of public water mains which occurred in Pissouri during 2018/19, or the 4 (yes, four) underground armoured electricity cables that sheared due to ground movement in just the last two weeks of March 2019?
  6. What is the causal link between structural calculations carried out in respect of my home in 1988 and the widespread collapse of public roads throughout southwest Pissouri in 2019, or is it the contention of the auditor-general that the district engineer designed such public roads with as much carelessness as amounts to negligence?
  7. Is the probable answer to all these questions that the auditor-general has been improperly briefed, either carelessly or mendaciously, thereby damaging the reputation both the auditor-general himself and his important office?

For the avoidance of doubt: the issue at stake in Pissouri is not one of professional negligence by designers, nor even breach of duty of care by the district administration (defence of which comprises a significant portion of the auditor-general’s letter) it is common humanity. The residents of southwest Pissouri are the innocent victims of an uninsurable natural disaster -namely, landslide which was notified to the authorities seven years ago in June 2012.

The residents have not sought to apportion blame or to blame anyone, they simply look to the government of Cyprus to protect them from the consequences, including loss of their homes, of the uninsurable natural disaster, as is their right under Article 1 of Protocol 1 of The European Convention on Human Rights.

Antony Walker FRICS (Fellow, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors)

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