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 >  Ionian  >  Kefalonia  >  EU cash aid for Kefalonia

Cash aid on the way for quake-hit Kefalonia island

- by Andy Cornish

Kefalonia to get euro cash help towards the clean-up costs of winter earthquake.

Cash help could be on the way for the Ionian holiday island of Kefalonia hit earlier this year by a 5.8 earthquake and a series of severe aftershocks.

European ministers have earmarked €3.7 million from the European Union Solidarity Fund towards clean-up costs following the series of earth tremors that struck the island in January this year.

The earthquake struck on 26 January to the north-east of the island capital of Argostoli and tremors were felt on the neighbouring Ionian Islands of Zante and Corfu and on the Greek mainland.

Dozens of aftershocks shook buildings for several weeks after the iniital shocks with significant damage to buildings and to island roads.

Around 100 houses were so badly damaged that they had to be demolished and thousands of islanders were forced to move into temporary accommodation.

Many Kefalonian islanders slept in tents and other emergency shelters. Ferry ships and cruise liners anchored in Argostoli harbour were also used for temporary emergency accommodation.

Schools across the island were closed until mid-February and there was significant impact on the local infrastructure. Landslides and fallen rocks made many of the island roads impassable.

Some aftershocks were so severe they had panic-stricken islanders running into the streets. The seismic shocks reawakened memories of the devastating 7.2 magnitude quake that struck Kefalonia in 1953 killing hundreds of people.

The cash support package for Kefalonia is part of aid worth nearly €47 million that is also earmarked for Sardinia, Slovenia and Croatia in the wake of a string of natural disasters.

"These amounts are specific and targeted to help address the immediate and direct impact of natural disasters," said EU Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn in a press statement.

The support still has to be approved by the European Parliament and the Council but it is unlikely to be opposed.

The cash will go towards covering the emergency costs incurred by the public authorities on Kefalonia as a result of the disaster.

The grant will help to restore vital infrastructure and services, reimburse the emergency and rescue services, and help to cover some of the clean-up costs.

Fortunately the island was able to recover from the worst effects in good time for the summer holiday season and has this year reported a rise in visitor numbers despite fears that potential visitors would change their holiday plans in light of the island tremors.