Residents of the Limnes area in Pissouri, where a continuous and accelerating land slippage has caused homes to crumble, now face the added danger of electrocution as electricity cables are pulled to the ground, the lawyer representing the home owners said on Wednesday.
The electricity authority (EAC) confirmed to the Cyprus Mail that it has written to the government to express its concern.
“There is concern on our behalf and we have to inform the government of that. The matter shouldn’t wait until there is possibly an incident,” an EAC spokesperson said.
The land is now slipping at a rate of 1 cm a day or 7 cm a week, said lawyer Elina Zoi, adding that residents’ concerns about injury caused by falling electricity cables come on top of the years of psychological and physical stress as their homes disintegrate before their eyes.
“The problem with cables falling to the ground is a new development and people are very worried, as they should be. One home was evacuated a month ago after they came home to find an overhead electricity cable snapped and lying on the ground in their garden. It’s a real danger,” she told the Cyprus Mail.
A spokesman for the EAC distribution system, which includes some of the overhead cables, although not high voltage ones, told the Cyprus Mail on Wednesday that the department is having to visit Pissouri every day to fix problems as they arise.
“As soon as a difference is noticed from the previous day action is taken straight away. We have taken these precautions so as not to have the worst outcome.”
He explained that these overhead cables are fitted with security measures that ensure when the cable is broken and hits the ground, the electricity supply stops. However, if a cable broke and someone were to touch it immediately, there could be a real danger of electrocution, he said.
The electricity issue is just the latest in a seven-year battle for Limnes’ residents seeking redress for the land slippage which has caused cracks in interior and exterior walls, swimming pools, roads, pavements, footpaths, retaining walls, drains, water pipes and other infrastructure works.
Six of the properties have been declared unsuitable for habitation, but according to Zoi 15 houses are considered dangerous. Owners continue to live in them as they have nowhere else to go.
Last weekend, the community of Pissouri blocked the Limassol to Paphos highway to demonstrate against the lack of compensation from the state.
The head of the EAC transmission system (high voltage) department told the Cyprus Mail that there have been no reports of overhead high voltage cables being affected, but said there has been damage to underground high voltage cables due to the cracks caused by the land slippage.
He said that a recent meeting at the EAC head office concerning Pissouri ensured that all departments are well informed and all of the information has been passed on to the government, in particular the minister of commerce.
Zoi added that in another recent incident, a home owner saw an electricity cable fall, sparking as it hit the ground, but before he could do anything about it, a car had driven over it.
“It was by luck that the driver wasn’t hurt,” she said.
A meeting with the community leader Lazaros Lazarou, members of the local council and the Limassol district officer took place at the EAC office in Limassol ten days ago.
“The EAC responded straight away, they have been very concerned and professional and the next day started to undertake work to solve some of the electricity problems in the area,” Lazarou told the Cyprus Mail.
As the ground is moving at such a rapid rate, cables are being stretched and damaged and the entire area is suffering from almost daily power cuts, he said.
The EAC is currently moving some of the underground cables to posts, which will mean that they can change the route and isolate the area of the landslide, so that cuts will not have to be made to the entire village as work gets underway in the problem area.
It will also enable the EAC to address issues more quickly as access to cables is easier, he said.
In February it seemed as though the residents’ long battle for compensation was coming to a close when the House interior committee said the government would compensate owners of the homes affected by the land slippage and carry out a study on the stabilisation of the area.
But at the beginning of the month the auditor-general, Odysseas Michaelides, said the state has no obligation to compensate the homeowners of damaged properties.
“The auditor-general has pointed out that a decision to compensate the affected owners by the government will create a precedent for similar cases and is basically a gift to the developers who sold the residences to unsuspecting buyers,” the interior ministry said on Monday.
The tender for a land management study of the Limnes area will be launched this month, the ministry said.
In 2015, property owners formed the Pissouri Housing Initiative Group (PHIG) and paid thousands of euros to obtain studies and papers from various renowned international experts, as well as satellite imaging, at a cost of €25,000. Then the movement was up to 40cm per year, it is now almost double that figure every month.
The land slippage is due to failure to provide adequate infrastructure to manage groundwater, and allowing development to go ahead in the area.
“You can’t imagine what it’s like for these people, it’s like a war zone,” said Zoi.
“It’s terrible to leave these people alone in their destroyed homes, we worry about their quality of life and some of them are over 80. Life is precious and we will continue until we find a solution,” said Lazarou.