. Space Travel News .

12 dead in blasts at Cyprus base, navy chief killed
by Staff Writers
Mari, Cyprus (AFP) July 11, 2011

Huge blasts in a seized Iranian arms cache at a Greek Cypriot naval base in southern Cyprus killed at least 12 people on Monday, triggering power and water outages likely to last months.

The commander of Cyprus's navy, Andreas Ioannides, was among the dead, as was the commander of the Evangelos Florakis base, Lambros Lambrou, police and the National Guard said in a joint statement.

Four other members of the armed forces and six firefighters also died.

The early morning explosions devastated the adjacent Vassiliko power station in what Commerce Minister Antonis Paschalides called a "tragedy of Biblical dimensions" for the small Mediterranean island.

The plant produces almost 60 percent of the country's electricity supply.

Massive damage was caused to homes in the nearby village of Mari, forcing the evacuation of its 150 residents, the village headman told AFP.

Government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said 62 people were injured, two of them seriously, and announced three days of official mourning.

Defence Minister Costas Papacostas and Greek Cypriot National Guard commander Petros Tsaliklides resigned at an emergency cabinet meeting, Stefanou said.

The defence ministry had held talks last week about storage conditions after National Guard chiefs reportedly expressed concerns about the arms cache being kept in the open as temperatures touched 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

"Decisions were taken on protecting the material but unfortunately this was not possible as time ran out," Stefanou said, promising a "thorough investigation."

The official CNA news agency said the death toll could rise as a number of people were missing.

It said the bodies of four of the 12 dead were taken to Nicosia General Hospital for identification, and that 20-year-old twin brothers were among the dead.

Firefighters were called to tackle a small fire in the storage area at the base at 4:24 am (0124 GMT) and the explosions followed at 5:50 am (0250 GMT), public radio reported.

An AFP correspondent saw magazine casings, shrapnel and other debris from the explosion littered throughout Mari. Windows and doors were blown in, some roofs had collapsed and structural damage was widespread.

Debris was hurled as far as three kilometres (two miles) from the seat of the blast in the naval base between Mari and the fishing village of Zygi to the west, the correspondent reported.

Hundreds of trees on nearby hillsides were flattened by the shock wave and several generator buildings and fuel tanks at the Vassiliko plant were reduced to shells.

Virtually every window was blown out in Zygi, a village whose seafront fish restaurants are popular with locals and tourists alike.

-- Debris flying through the air --


"It was about 5:40 am, it was one massive explosion. We thought it was a plane crash. Luckily our windows were open and they weren't blasted in," lawyer George Michaelides, a Zygi resident, told AFP.

The main motorway connecting Nicosia with the island's second-largest city Limassol runs less than a kilometre (half a mile) from Vassiliko, and motorists reported debris flying through the air.

Before handing in his resignation, Tsaliklides told public radio the blasts struck among containers of Iranian munitions seized from Cypriot-flagged vessel the M/V Monchegorsk in January 2009.

It was intercepted in the eastern Mediterranean en route to Syria, and after repeated searches its cargo was eventually seized.

A UN Security Council panel concluded in March 2009 that the shipment was in clear violation of an arms embargo against Iran under UN sanctions imposed over Tehran's controversial nuclear programme and the weapons were put into storage.

President Demetris Christofias visited the blast scene and expressed his condolences to the victims' families.

"The material damage can be repaired, but lives do not come back," he said.

Electricity Authority of Cyprus Chairman Charis Thrassou warned it would take a long time to repair the Vassiliko plant and that an emergency rationing plan would be put to ministers.

CNA reported him as saying billions of euros may be needed to repair the facility.

On a hilltop overlooking Vassiliko, a steady stream of sightseers arrived to see the destruction for themselves.

"The place is completely wiped out," said one teenager surveying the scene through binoculars.

Power outages have already hit large swathes of the island.

The loss of supply also prompted the closure of desalination plants which had allowed the gradual abandonment of summer water rationing over the past two years.

The Nicosia Water Board announced that consumers in the capital would now be supplied with water for just 12 hours in every 48.

"The government calls on all the people to cooperate to tackle all these difficulties," government spokesman Stefanou said.

At the island's main international airport in Larnaca, morning flights were severely disrupted after the blasts. Flights later returned to normal, but passengers had to cope with severely reduced air conditioning.

There was no immediate word on damage to naval vessels, but officials spoke of "devastation" at the base.

The Greek defence ministry flew a team of explosives experts to Cyprus to aid investigations, following a request from the government in Nicosia.

CNA said the US State Department had also offered assistance.

The Cyprus Stock Exchange All Share Index was down 7.63 percentage points on Friday's close.

Related Links
The latest in Military Technology for the 21st century at SpaceWar.com

Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
Buy Advertising Editorial Enquiries

. Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

F-35 Jet Blast Deflector Testing Underway at Lakehurst
Lakehurst NJ (SPX) Jul 08, 2011
F-35C Lightning II carrier variant aircraft CF-2 is performing Jet Blast Deflector (JBD) tests at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey. The JBD, located behind the catapults aboard aircraft carriers, deflects high energy exhaust from the engine to prevent damage and injury to other aircraft and personnel located in close proximity. JBD testing is one portion of the tests re ... read more

Final Soyuz launcher integration is underway for Arianespace Globalstar mission from Kazakhstan

Arianespace to launch THOR 7 satellite for Telenor

Space X Dragon Spacecraft Returns To Florida

Arianespace Launch Postponed At Least 20 Days

Two Possible Sites for Next Mars Rover

Scientists uncover evidence of a wet Martian past in desert

NASA Research Offers New Prospect Of Water On Mars

New Animation Depicts Next Mars Rover in Action

Marshall Center's Bassler Leads NASA Robotic Lander Work

NASA puts space probe into lunar orbit

ARTEMIS Spacecraft Prepare for Lunar Orbit

LRO Showing Us the Moon as Never Before

Clocking The Spin of Neptune

Scientist accurately gauges Neptune's spin

Williams and MIT Astronomers Observe Pluto and its Moons

SOFIA Successfully Observes Challenging Pluto Occultation

Microlensing Finds a Rocky Planet

A golden age of exoplanet discovery

CoRoT's new detections highlight diversity of exoplanets

Rage Against the Dying of the Light

PSLV-C17 to Launch GSAT-12 on July 15, 2011

Astrium signs up for Next Gen Launcher High Thrust Engine

NASA Will Compete Space Launch System (SLS) Boosters

Europe to build space re-entry vehicle

China launches experimental satellite

China to launch an experimental satellite in coming days

China to launch new communication satellite

China's second moon orbiter Chang'e-2 goes to outer space

First-Ever View of a Sungrazer Comet In Front of the Sun

Dawn Team Members Check out Spacecraft

Does Asteroid Vesta Have a Moon

Richard Binzel on near-Earth asteroids

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2011 - Space Media Network. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement