Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Naval base explosion in Cyprus kills at least 12

Cyprus (Sigh-prus) is a Eurasian island country in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of its most popular tourist destinations. An advanced, high-income economy with a very high Human Development Index, the Republic of Cyprus was a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement until it joined the European Union on 1 May 2004.

The earliest known human activity on the island dates back to around the 10th millennium BC. Archaeological remains from this period include the well-preserved Neolithic village of Khirokitia, which has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, along with the Tombs of the Kings. Cyprus is home to some of the oldest water wells in the world, and is the site of the earliest known example of feline domestication.

At a strategic location in the Middle East, Cyprus has been occupied by several major powers, including the empires of the Hittites, Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Rashiduns, Umayyads, Lusignans, Venetians and Ottomans. Settled by Mycenean Greeks in the 2nd millennium BC, the island also experienced long periods of Greek rule under the Ptolemies and the Byzantines. In 333 B.C., Alexander of Macedon conquered the island from the Persians. The Ottoman Empire conquered the island in 1571 and it remained under Ottoman control for over three centuries. It was placed under British administration in 1878 until it was granted independence in 1960, becoming a member of the Commonwealth the following year.

In 1974, following 11 years of intercommunal violence, using an attempted coup d'├ętat by Greek Cypriot nationalists[23][24] and elements of the Greek military junta with the aim of achieving enosis (union of the island with Greece) as a pretext, Turkey invaded and occupied the northern portion of the island, resulting in the partition of the island, Turkey's objective since 1955. The intercommunal violence and subsequent Turkish invasion led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Cypriots and the establishment of a separate Turkish Cypriot political entity in the north. These events and the resulting political situation are matters of ongoing dispute.

The Republic of Cyprus has de jure sovereignty over the entire island of Cyprus and its surrounding waters except small portions, Akrotiri and Dhekelia, that are allocated by treaty to the United Kingdom as sovereign military bases. The Republic of Cyprus is de facto partitioned into two main parts; the area under the effective control of the Republic of Cyprus, comprising about 59% of the island's area, and the Turkish-controlled area in the north, calling itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, covering about 36% of the island's area and recognized only by Turkey.

Mirror.co: Naval base explosion in Cyprus kills at least 12

AT least 12 people were killed and 60 injured yesterday after a massive explosion ripped through a naval base.

The building in Cyprus was blown up when a bush fire spread to the base and set light to 2,000 tons of confiscated Iranian gunpowder stored at the munitions dump.

Two Cypriot navy sailors, two soldiers and five firefighters were among those killed.

The blast was felt for miles and caussed widespread damage to homes in nearby villages. Shocked President Dimitris Christofias described as “a catastrophe of biblical proportions”.

Shockwaves could be heard 40 miles away in the capital, Nicosia.

The island’s main electricity generator – the Vasiliko power station – was also badly damaged.

It was expected to be offline for at least a day but police said a fire there had been contained.

Mr Christofias said: “We were devastated by this event, not so much by the material damage, but by the loss of human lives and the injury of many of our compatriots.”

A motorist who was near the Cypriot National Guard base at the time of the blast said it felt like “a bomb had been dropped on the car”.

Officials say investigators have ruled out sabotage.

Defence minister Costas Papacostas and National Guard chief Petros Tsalikides resigned after the tragedy at 6am at the Evangelos Florakis Naval Base, which is near the village of Mari in Larnaca District on the island’s southern coast.

The gunpowder had been stored in containers after being confiscated in 2009 by Cypriot authorities from a ship sailing off its coast.

The vessel, the Cypriot-flagged Monchegorsk, was snared by US warships and was suspected of taking the explosives from Iran to Gaza.

A Cyprus Electricity Authority spokesman said the island’s two other power stations would try to cover demand while Vasiliko was down.

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