Some of you know I live in Cyprus, and many will have heard of Monday’s horrific explosion that literally rocked our small island at the eastern end of the Mediterranean.
The explosion occurred when munitions, seized in 2009 from an Iranian shipment to Syria, apparently exploded when a wildfire reached a military base. The explosion caused loss of life and dreadful injuries and has led to the resignations of Cyprus' defence minister and the commander of the Greek Cypriot National Guard.
Now we have a lot of bush fires, some are accidental, some are deliberately instigated and some are just plain irresponsible. In this terrible tragedy, at least twelve innocent people lost their lives. I have included some of the ‘alleged’ facts as garnered from various World News Agencies:
“Rescuers walked among debris and bodies covered by sheets around the Evangelos Florakis military base.” (news agency)
The evening before, I was in the next village with a group of forty-three friends having fun at a pool party. We’d cooled off in the swimming pool, had a super evening meal and then danced into the early hours – little realising that our venue would be hit very hard in just over three hours’ time. I was fortunate in leaving the party before the time of the explosion –some of my friends were not. Luckily none have sustained serious injury but the venue will need considerable money and effort before it will be usable again.
“The early-morning explosion in the southern village of Zygi, which was felt for miles around, destroyed a power station, levelled houses and shattered windows, doors and even the railing of a highway, said witnesses and journalists reached by telephone. Sixty-two people were injured.” (news agency)
“The ammunition was confiscated in early 2009 from the Cypriot-licensed cargo ship “Monchegorsk” as it sailed from Iran to Syria, according to the official Cyprus News Agency. The seizure was carried out in line with the U.N. Security Council's arms embargo on Iran over that country's nuclear aspirations.” (news agency)
“The blast left a deep crater where the munitions were stored and caused extensive damage to the nearby village of Mari, CNA said.” (news agency)
"There were 98 containers of gunpowder," a police spokesman told CNA. "They [caught] fire and huge explosions occurred." (news agency)
“The island's largest power plant, located next to the naval base, was destroyed. Blackouts are expected just as the summer heat peaks. Cyprus lost 60% of its power." (news agency)
Now we are told that only last week, another Cabinet meeting was held concerning the ammunition depot. It was reported to be unsafe and inadequately monitored and a decision was taken to protect the material. However, residents have only major contempt for what they consider gross negligence …”But they had two years”…the government had been warned that the containers had become “warped” from being exposed to the elements ever since being confiscated. (Allegedly)
How to shoot yourself in the foot, Cyprus-style (allegedly):
According to a reading of the newspapers, it is alleged that the position of the Cypriot government seems to have been:
1. Allow a Cyprus registered ship to carry a consignment of munitions from Iran to Syria.
2. When the ship is intercepted in the Red Sea by the US navy, insist that the ship is sent back to Cyprus. We don't want to offend the Syrians, because they might cosy up to Turkey and start running ferry services from North Cyprus to Aleppo
3. Reject offers from the Americans, Germans and others to dispose of the cargo.
4. Reject offers of specialist technicians to help neutralise the explosives.
5. It's not our job to play the international policeman. So, we sit on it until the UN rules what to do with it (i.e. take it off our hands)
6. Pile all 98 containers of explosives in a large pyramid (so as to maximise the force of the blast).
7. Leave the containers in direct sunlight for two years, so that the daily expansion/contraction plus the weight of containers makes them crack and buckle.
7. Reject pleas for proper conservation measures (disperse the containers, build blast-deflecting earthworks around them, put them in the shade), clear away the surrounding brushwood, because of "budget austerity".
8. Make sure the pyramid of containers is only 300 m away from the largest power station on the island, responsible for more than half of the national electricity supply.
Too bad it went "boom" in the meantime.
As a resident of Cyprus, I am naturally saddened by Monday’s horrific events, especially as it appears that this should never have happened and was a blunder of enormous proportions. We have three days of national mourning, but this will do little to appease those families left bereft.
I am sickened by what goes for ‘all in the name of politics.’
For the next week I am going to donate $1 from the royalties from each of my novels towards charity.
Thank you for listening