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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 96-12-30

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Greek Press & Information Office, Ottawa Canada <grnewsca@sympatico.ca>

ATHENS NEWS AGENCY BULLETIN (No. 1077), December 30, 1996

Greek Press & Information Office
Ottawa, Canada
E-Mail Address: grnewsca@sympatico.ca


CONTENTS

  • [01] Freighter capsizes off Evia; four dead, 16 missing
  • [02] AGET response
  • [03] Gov't statement
  • [04] Weather problems
  • [05] Foreign policy, economy expected to take center stage in '97
  • [06] Weather-related problems continue
  • [07] Celebrations to mark commencement of Thessaloniki as 'Cultural Capital'
  • [08] Anastasios on tour of southern Albania

  • [01] Freighter capsizes off Evia; four dead, 16 missing

    Athens, 30/12/1996 (ANA)

    Sixteen out of 21 persons on board a capsized Greek-flagged freighter beached off Kymi, Evia, remained unaccounted for at press-time yesterday evening, as search efforts were suspended at nightfall.

    Four bodies from the freighter "Distos" have been recovered by rescue units, while one crew-member, 18-year-old merchant marine cadet Christos Anagnostou, was picked up alive after he jumped into the water when the vessel began to list.

    According to authorities, three of the four bodies have been identified, while search operations by the coast guard, the navy, merchant vessels and divers were scheduled to resume at daybreak today.

    The vessel, owned and operated by the AGET Iraklis Cement group, was laden with 5,300 tons of cement when it capsized in rough seas at around 10:30 p.m. Saturday east of Kymi. The Distos was headed for Piraeus after leaving Volos on Thursday, and after previously seeking shelter in the island of Skiathos' port on Friday due to bad weather.

    According to shipping circles, rough seas can cause a cement cargo to shift, making it a particularly dangerous cargo to transport in bad weather.

    After the vessel was located by the coast guard, it was subsequently towed to approximately one nautical mile from the Evia coast in about 35 meters of water.

    Among the 21 on board the vessel were two wives of crew-members and a 10-year-old girl.

    [02] AGET response

    Athens, 30/12/1996 (ANA)

    Meanwhile, AGET general manager Nikos Mavros told a press conference yesterday afternoon that the vessel had left Skiathos despite strong winds and rough seas.

    "We did not give the Distos an order to leave port," he said, adding: "There was no need to transport the cargo during the holidays."

    Stressing that the vessel had set sail at the decision of its captain Yiannis Tsitsirikis, Mr. Mavros stressed, however, that the company had full trust in the vessel's skipper, who has been with the company since 1981. He also acknowledged responsibility on the part of AGET's shipping arm for disregarding a merchant marine ministry notification that the vessel was in danger.

    The ministry notified AGET that the Distos was in trouble after being warned by a Spanish satellite station, which had received a signal from a specially fitted communications device on the vessel.

    According to reports, when the ministry notified AGET that the Distos was in trouble Saturday night, the company considered it a false alarm.

    "These devices are very sensitive and there have been times, which have also been recorded by the merchant marine ministry, that they have sent a signal without a cause," Mr. Mavros said.

    He added that the vessel began listing after being engulfed by two huge waves.

    [03] Gov't statement

    Athens, 30/12/1996 (ANA)

    Speaking to reporters earlier, Merchant Marine Minister Stavros Soumakis said an investigation to possible negligence by port authorities was continuing.

    In later statements, Mr. Soumakis said that "according to first reports from divers who had entered the ship, the vessel's compartments were full of water."

    Concerning the causes and circumstances of the maritime accident, the minister said a preliminary investigation has been ordered, which is being carried out by senior coast guard officials on site.

    "It must be underlined, and we should all understand, that maritime accidents occurring under these particularly difficult conditions cannot be handled by anyone, even if he possesses the most sophisticated equipment. In this particular case, and according to the statements by the rescued crewman, the vessel capsized and a black out occurred in less than a minute," he added.

    Many passenger ships were advised to cancel their routes on Saturday due to heavy seas and strong winds in the Aegean.

    On its part, the main opposition New Democracy party said in a statement that "responsibilities should be sought" and that searches should be continued, while all necessary precautions should be taken to avert similar tragedies in the future in this area.

    The Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) accused the merchant marine ministry for "an impressive delay ... (in mobilizing rescue forces)."

    [04] Weather problems

    Athens, 30/12/1996 (ANA)

    A 65-year-old woman died yesterday after slipping and hitting her head in her backyard, which turned to ice following snow and freezing rain that pounded her village over the past few days in northern Greece.

    Efthymia Pinakidou is the first victim of arctic-like weather which hit Greece over the weekend.

    In a related development, dozens of people, particularly elderly persons, were rushed to hospitals in the last few days suffering from fractures from falls on ice.

    Meanwhile, snow continued to fall yesterday in many parts of the country, cutting off villages in mountainous areas and creating transportation problems.

    [05] Foreign policy, economy expected to take center stage in '97

    Athens, 30/12/1996 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis has every reason to be satisfied with the outgoing year, a particularly difficult year for Greece's foreign policy and economic sectors, since he admittedly played a leading role in 1996.

    Mr. Simitis succeeded the late Andreas Papandreou at the socialist PASOK party's leadership and won general elections last September, keeping PASOK in power for a second consecutive term.

    The death of Andreas Papandreou (which may signal the end of an entire era), the prevalence of Simitis in Greece's political scene, a crisis in Greek-Turkish relations and the farmers' mobilizations late in the year, are considered the most important events in 1996, and will probably pave the way for what is expected to develop in 1997.

    On the domestic political front, Mr. Simitis can be considered the leading figure since at the present stage he has neither any substantive intra-party criticism to face nor a main opposition party having a steadfast and unified policy, as the conservative New Democracy party is faced with its own serious internal problems, and consequently, he can address the country's problems unimpeded.

    Mr. Simitis will have to tackle two main problems in the new year, namely, Greek-Turkish relations and the state of the economy.

    The crisis over the Imia islets in January 1996, when Greece and Turkey came to the brink of war, substantively shaped the framework and the climate - the worst in past years - in Greek-Turkish relations, and according to all indications the disputing b y Turkey of all islets lying close to the Turkish coastline will constitute a permanent headache for foreign policy in the future.

    One could say that Greek foreign policy, more than ever, is orientated towards confronting Turkish designs in the Aegean and Cyprus. Additionally, Athens is pursuing this purpose both through the European Union and through Washington, as well as a unified defense doctrine with Cyprus.

    Backstage manoeuvres are also taking place to improve Greek-Turkish relations, while US President Bill Clinton is expected, on the basis of pre-election statements, to take initiatives on Greek national issues.

    Meanwhile, Greece's relations with the neighboring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) are also pending, after a prolonged period of recession, since talks in New York sponsored by UN mediator Cyrus Vance failed to produce results. Consequently, the settlement of the landlocked state's name is to be expected in 1997, or at least a clarification of its prospects.

    Many fear that the state of the economy and the restrictive policy the government is obliged to follow to allow the country to align itself with Maastricht Treaty criteria might lead to social tensions. The danger was clearly visible with mobilizations by protesting farmers and pensioners, which the government handled steadfastly and successfully.

    However, the situation is not easy since the government might be faced with additional problems in the health and education sectors and since it will have to maintain its social image in the light of its steadfast economic and incomes policy.

    The picture in ND's camp is particularly grim.

    Party leader Miltiades Evert lost last September's general elections and in the wake of this defeat his intraparty foes virtually consider him to be "a leader with an expiry date."

    He is faced with a sustained internal opposition headed by George Souflias, who is seeking the party's leadership, as well as a party congress in late February or early March, where a new leader is expected to be elected.

    Political Spring party leader Antonis Samaras, who failed to keep his party in Parliament after it fell below the 3 per cent margin necessary for a party to elect deputies, is also in a difficult position.

    On the other hand, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga, Coalition of the Left and Progress leader Nikos Constantopoulos and the leader of the recently established Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) party, Dimitris Tsovolas, have every reason to feel satisfied with their forces.

    [06] Weather-related problems continue

    Athens, 30/12/1996 (ANA)

    Twenty-nine villages in three prefectures throughout the country continue to be isolated in the wake of on-going poor weather conditions.

    According to information by the public order ministry, as a result of snowfall yesterday, communications have been disrupted with 11 villages in Achaia prefecture, 11 villages in Evia and seven villages in Fthiotida prefecture.

    Many vehicles have been immobilized on the national and regional network due to weather conditions.

    In addition, a total of 85 traffic accidents have occurred from Friday afternoon until last night, resulting in 13 people being killed and 125 injured.

    [07] Celebrations to mark commencement of Thessaloniki as 'Cultural Capital'

    Athens, 30/12/1996 (ANA)

    Thessaloniki will welcome its assumption of the European Cultural Capital 1997 title with a 24-hour, open-air celebration replete with singers, actors, clowns, magicians, artists, musicians and participating residents.

    An open-to-all party beginning on New Year's Eve and lasting until dawn the next day is also being thrown by the city's Cultural Capital Organization. In addition, five open-air tents will be set up at central locations in the city to house musical and theatrical groups.

    Other events welcoming the new "cultural year" will start tomorrow morning . Musical groups and singers will perform traditional carols and will end up in Aristotelous Square at around 1 p.m. The centerpiece celebration will begin at 8.30 p.m. and last until dawn.

    The main tent will be set up in front of the White Tower where appearances by several well-known Greek and foreign performers are scheduled.

    [08] Anastasios on tour of southern Albania

    Gjirokaster, 30/12/1996 (ANA/D. Tsakas)

    Archbishop of Tirana and All Albania Anastasios officiated at a church service in Gjirokaster's Taxiarchon Cathedral yesterday in the presence of a large gathering of parishioners.

    The Archbishop arrived in the city from Tirana on Saturday night after staying in Arysenitsa Monastery. Earlier, children from Megalohori, Dervitsiani sang Christmas carols in the presence of Anastasios.

    The Archbishop will leave for Sarande today, while on New Year's day he will officiate at a church service in Korce.

    End of English language section.


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