23 February 2016

Ropoto: a town in Greece lost to a landslide

Posted by dr-dave

Ropoto in Greece

In the last week a few media outlets (such as Atlas Obscura) have carried reports about the town of Ropoto in Greece, which in 2010 was abandoned due to a landslide, inspired by an article on the Greek Explorer website.  The latter has made a short documentary about the town, and its landslide.  The  short description that goes with the film is as follows:

Ropoto was once a thriving village and home to 300 families, but a landslide in 2012 turned the village into a ghost town. Today, forgotten by people and authorities, Ropoto’s terrain is still sinking, slowly moving the half-standing structures.
This is the video:

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The story is deeply tragic.  In the 1960s cracks started to appear the land surrounding the town, leading to plans to abandon the settlement.  However, by the early 1980s this decision was being ignored and building was occurring apace.  But on 12th April 2012 a major movement event occurred, and 300 families had to evacuate the town at very short notice.  The damage to Ropoto is now so serious that it cannot be restored.  There are some excellent images on the Instagram site of Aris Skoulis of the consequence of the landslide:
Ropoto landsldie

Ropoto landslide via Instagram and Aris Skoulis

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Ropoto landslide

Ropoto landslide via Instagram and Aris Skoulis

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Ropoto landslide

Ropoto landslide via Instagram and Aris Skoulis

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There are good Google Earth images of Ropoto going back to August 2007.  In this image the main landslide has not developed fully, but the headscarp of the mass movement is clearly visible.  Note that on the whole the mapped roads line up with those on the ground.
Ropoto landslide

Ropoto landslide via Google Earth

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The latest image is from July 2015.  The difference is amazing.  The landslide itself is clearly visible, with a very well-defined headscarp and a highly deformed main mass.  Many of the buildings have collapsed or been demolished.  There is a clear offset downslope in many of the roads in the landslide mass.  Note that the two images do not line up perfectly (hence the offset in the roads elsewhere too) but the difference on the landslide is very clear.
Ropoto landslide

Ropoto landslide via Google Earth

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The underlying causes of this landslide are far from obvious to me, and I’d be interested to hear what happened at this site in the 1960s when movement was first observed.  But the tragedy for the community is stark.  Greece has had a very hard time in the wake of the 2008 Financial Crisis; It is hard to imagine how the people of Ropoto have coped.