Scenes from Sfakian Life VI Everything you want to ask, read or write about Sfakia, southwest Crete, or Crete island in general.

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Scenes from Sfakian Life VI

by Peter » 07 Apr 2019, 09:34

Scenes from Sfakian Life VI

“It was exactly forty years ago,” says Andréas. “Forty years today”. We are not sure what he is talking about.
He points to the southern horizon: “It was the same weather as today”.

Now we get it - we remember the story.

Today is dull and overcast, as it was then, apparently – we were not here at the time, but we have heard about it often enough. There is an enormous swell on the grey sea, rolling in dramatically from the southeast with the wind. This is the sirókos which is blowing in, bringing with it warm air and, if it rains, maybe red Saharan dust.

As Andréas says, on April 3rd, 1979, the weather was the same. We did not hear about what happened that day until the following year. But it was a truly traumatic and horrifying event which no one who was here at the time – most of them aged over fifty now, of course – will ever forget.

In those days we had not heard of the word tsunami. But that is what it was. The water was suddenly all sucked out of the old harbour, Andréas now reminds us, and a gigantic wave then surged back in again, towering over the sea-wall and smashing into the colourful fishing boats in the little harbour, which were all destroyed, and breaking into the shops and tavernas along the front.

The most frightful thing, though, was that many people were swept helplessly into the harbour. Andréas had painted the dramatic scene for us when we next returned: “Three times Andréas go in the sea,” he told us. He had been dragged into the water by the tidal wave, but then, having rescued himself, he had twice dived back in again to pull out some people floundering in the sea, breaking his arm as he did so. Miraculously, no one was drowned, but at least one tourist was badly hurt.

Now, in April 2019, Andréas is opening up his kitchen again for the first time this spring, and everyone is wishing the Lefka Ori taverna “kalí saizón!”. Andreas is making psarósoupa, fish soup, and – of course – moussakás. We ask, as we do jokingly every year, if he still remembers how to make it. Oh yes, of course he remembers.
Just as every year he will remember April 3rd, 1979.
Last edited by Peter on 10 Apr 2019, 05:44, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Scenes from Sfakian Life VI

by Erno » 07 Apr 2019, 09:47

Some photos of the occasion:




© Janni Heyer, Germany

Chora Sfakion, spring 1979

"The storm came unexpectedly at night. Some fishermen lost everything they had. A Dutch woman, a tourist, got badly injured, after she had fallen into the old harbour, and got cut by the floating debris (if I remember well)."
All the best,


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Re: Scenes from Sfakian Life VI

by Micki » 08 Apr 2019, 08:39

Very interesting story, Peter. Thank you very much.
It very much looks like a tsunami and I tried google to find information about the causes. However, no major earthquake was mentioned.
Is there any information or are the guesses about what caused this tsunami?

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Re: Scenes from Sfakian Life VI

by Peter » 09 Apr 2019, 05:40

Thank you. Janni Heyer, who took the photographs in 1979, is here right now, and he says he has never been able to find any record of any event which might have caused the tsunami.

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