Floods bring down Ottoman bridge in Balkans
In this June, 2002 file photo, the 18th-century Plaka bridge which spans the Arachthos river in the village of Plaka Raftanaion in the Epirus region, northwestern Greece. AP PhotoOne of the most famous stone bridges in the Balkans, the Plaka Bridge in Greece’s Ipiros region, has collapsed due to heavy flooding in the area following failures by authorities to restore the structure.
Heavy rains that have soaked Greece and Turkey since the end of last week have caused widespread damage in much of Greece, inundating highways, agricultural areas and farmland, in addition to the Plaka Bridge in Ipiros’ Arta village.
Newly elected Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was at the Fire Brigade’s emergency command center in Athens, where he urged experts from the Infrastructure and Culture ministries to go to the flooded area and inspect roads, monuments and other historical artifacts at risk there.
The remains of the Plaka bridge destroyed by flooding, are seen over Arachthos river on Feb. 1. AP Photo
Tsipras said he was “very sad” to hear of the Plaka Bridge’s collapse, reported the Associated Press, while adding that the priority was to prevent the loss of lives.
There are many surviving Ottoman artifacts in the region. An expert team in cooperation with the Athens Polytechnic School will visit the bridge and consider plans for reconstruction once the water level decreases.
Greek media reported that the collapse of the bridge, which was the symbol of the region and visited by thousands of local and foreign visitors, had upset locals in Ipiros. The bridge narrowly escaped collapse during heavy rains in 2007, prompting discussion on its possible restoration. Officials in the region, however, were criticized by local media and citizens for not proceeding with restoration.
Standing over for 148 years
Standing on the border of the prefectures of Arta and Ioannina, the historic bridge had stood over the Arachthos River for 148 years. The link was constructed by Constantinos Bekas in 1866 after two unsuccessful attempts by other builders in 1860 and 1863. It was the widest stone bridge in Ipiros and the biggest single-arch bridge in the Balkans, with a 40-meter arch span and 21-meter height.
During World War II, the bridge was bombed by the Germans near its center, but it withstood the bombing, while the damage was subsequently repaired. It was considered one of the most difficult, single-arch bridges to construct.