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Vrisa: The ghost village of Lesvos after earthquake strikes with 6.3R

Vrisa in south Lesvos. A ghost village. Destruction. Despair. Nine in ten houses in the village have collapsed or suffered serious damage. The powerful earthquake that stroke with 6.3R left behind a woman dead, 15 people injured and huge material damage.

“We have no future here,” a resident tells Euronews. “We’ll leave. We have no choice. We’ll be refugees in our country.”

According to official estimation, 70 to 75 percent of the houses cannot be inhabited anymore.
“70% of the houses have have collapsed or half-collapsed and these house still standing show signs that they will have to be demolished,” deputy mayor of Lesvoss in charge of Emergencies and Environment Nikos Karasavvas told media.

“We were taking a nap when the earthquake stroke. I grabbed my kids and run outside. Our house collapsed,” a woman said.

The powerful earthquake hit with 6.3 magnitude on the Richter scale at 3:28 p.m. on Monday. Some geodynamic institutes reported 6.1 R.

The epicenter has been located in the sea area between the islands of Lesvos and Chios in the east Aegean Sea. It occurred in a depth of 7 to 10 km. The tremor was felt in neighboring islands, the west coast of Turkey, even in Greek capital Athens km away.

A 43-year-old woman died when the roof of her home collapsed. She was a mother of two.

15 people have been injured, they mostly suffered fractures. Rescue teams managed to pull three people out of the debris.

Vrisa, the village with 850 souls, has been evacuated. Residents spent the night in relatives’ homes, in summer houses and in tents set up by the army in neighboring villages, or in their cars. Elderly were taken to hotel rooms leased by the municipality.

Yet, some refused to go away fearing of looting.They hang around all night trying to avert aspiring thieves.

They ask authorities to allow them to go to their homes and get clothes or other valuable items.

But authorities are strict. Aftershocks continue without a break, from the time the earthquake stroke until the early morning hours of Tuesday, more than 90 aftershocks of 2 R – 5 R have occurred. Seismologists expect aftershocks of higher magnitude of even 5.5 R. Such a tremor could bring down the hanging roofs and the damaged columns.

Stratis, a blogger from Vrisa, wrote on Monday afternoon in his blog “Under the Buttonwood” :


Too many houses have collapsed, ours too, the streets are impassable because of the rubble. The school has been destroyed, St. Constantine church has many cracks, the small belfry on top is about to fall.  The dangers in the village from the half-broken walls are too great. In the Zoodochos Pigi church from afar, a piece of the eastern wall seems to have fallen.

Many people came to help. The main concern was the retrieval of the missing person, which lasted several hours with unpleasant results. Some machines cleaned the rubble from the main road a  while ago. In some places the debris reached 1.5 meters.

All inhabitants wonder whether our village will be revived again, whether it iwll be possible to be inhabited. 

Let us hope that things will not get worse and the state will help us.

We are very happy to be healthy, we are very saddened for the enormous damage we have suffered and hope our village will come to life again.”

The residents of Vrisa wonder why their village was devastated when in neighboring areas the damages were not so big.

Among the villagers, talk is that Vrisa sits directly on the active fault line. Seismologists say that there are several geo-morphological factors that brought disaster to the village.

Efthimios Lekkas, director of Greek Earthquake Planning & Protection Organization, told local Emprosnet.gr, “the soil in this area is loose, the groundwater table is high and the village is very close to the epicenter of the earthquake.”

In 1845 the majority of the 60 houses in Vrisa had collapsed, one person had died.

Teams consisting of engineers and other experts will start inspections in the village in order to find out which houses have to be demolished. However, on top of experts’ priorities lists are the public buildings like schools.

Permanent solutions for the hundreds of homeless are needed. It is too early for that. For the time being, all state authorities can offer is provisional accommodation in hotels or tents.

Damages have been recorded also in other villages of Lesvos, but nowhere they are so devastating like in Vrisa.


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