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Prosecutor orders investigation into Agia Pelagia deadly flood; Anti-flood project under scrutiny

The deadly flood where two people died in Agia Pelagia on the island of Crete has triggered the intervention of the local judicial authorities that ordered an urgent preliminary investigation.

The head of the Prosecutor’s Office of Heraklion, Thanasis Galina, ordered on Monday an urgent preliminary examination for the deadly flood in Agia Pelagia, Malevizi municipality.

According to state broadcaster ERT, the prosecutor requested that the Malevizi Police Department investigates whether responsibilities arise from negligence for the double homicide, for physical injuries and thirdly, for the flood.

A 50-year-old driver and his co-passenger, a 49-year-old woman, lost their lives on Saturday, when their car got wedged in the canal of the anti-flood project, carried out by the Municipality of Malevizi.

The man was drown inside the car, while the woman managed to get out, however, she was swept away by the rushing waters. her body was found floating in the sea a day later, on Sunday.

Τhe anti-flooding project has been sharply criticized not only by local residents of Agia Pelagia who complain that it  exacerbated the destruction caused by the severe bad weather, but also by experts.

It is not a “big project” but a “big potato”, say the locals.

Michalis Dretakis, researcher of the Museum of Natural History of Crete in the Ecology and Environmental Management laboratory, pointed out on a Facebook post, step by step “the criminal mistakes that were made in the project and sounded  alarm for similar or even worse rainfalls and the possibility of widespread landslides.

Dretakis lists as “criminal mistakes” the following:

1. They built everywhere on the surrounding slopes, there was no more soil to absorb water, all the “excess” water accumulates in any outlet, old stream.

2. The river became a road, asphalt and any old vegetation was cut, if I remember correctly it had plane trees and lots of reeds. So there was no longer anything to hold back the momentum of the water, it multiplied it without “obstacles.”

3. Just at the estuary the diameter is limited by building on both two sides. The excess water from any heavy rains easily enters the tourist shops.

4. The BIG project, or rather the fat POTATO. Boxing, estuary dredging and walling and all this is so-called “flood control” work. What exactly did they do with this project? Accumulated stupidity in a world that is led and carried by political promises of projects that ultimately yield only benefits for the contractors, both in local government and in part of the scientific world that treats such projects as necessary for Civil Protection! TRAGIC.”

Head of the National Earthquake Planning and Protection Efthymios Lekkas told Mega TV on Sunday: “Whatever anti-flooding work had been done in the area would have had no effect as the pipeline would have to be five times longer but there is not a single measure to move anyone because of the tourist development.”

He described the rain-water volume as similar that that of a “tsunami.”

Other experts pointed out at the “anarchy building in the area, the closing of streams as well as the outdated anti-flooding projects.

Seismologist Gerasimos Papadopoulos stressed that the closing of the natural beds of streams mathematically leads to disasters as the nature has created for a reason. Because that’s where gravity goes, that’s where the water is directed. If we violate this, the natural flow of water will go there again. But now it has become a road, that has shops and houses and this new river-road will now flood the area. We have seen them before in Corinth 2 years ago, in Mandra, on many occasions.”

He added that “many times the anti-flood works are not sufficient as the water drainage networks are also often inadequate or non-existent.”

Professor for Atmospheric Physics and Climatology Christos Zerefos said that the anti-flooding projects need to be updated and adjusted to the climate change.

It is recalled that the bad weather swept away everything in its path, with the roads turning into muddy rivers flooding homes and businesses in the seaside resort on the northern coast of Crete, near Heraklio.

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