Cypriot defense and army chiefs resign after explosion

Explosion at army munitions dump kills 12, causes island's largest power station to shut down.

By REUTERS
July 11, 2011 15:21
1 minute read.
Emergency crews at entrance to Cyprus navy base.

Cyprus blast 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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NICOSIA - Cyprus's defense minister and army chief resigned after a munitions dump blast that killed 12 people on Monday, a government spokesman said.

The explosion happened at a military base where confiscated Iranian arms were being held and shut down the island's largest power station, the official Cyprus News Agency said.

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Fire from the blast spread to Vassilikos, an electricity facility which provides Cyprus with half of its power.

"We can't assess the extent of the damage, but it's a biblical disaster," spokesman Costas Gavrielides told Reuters.

Police and army officials gave little detail about the incident which happened just before 0300 GMT. The official Cyprus News Agency reported at least eight people had been killed, and dozens hurt.

"There are a number of dead which we cannot confirm yet," a spokesperson for Cyrpus's ministry of defense said.

Ambulances were seen rushing to the scene, while hospitals all over the island issued emergency appeals for blood.

The military base stored munitions from the Monchegorsk, which Cyprus intercepted sailing from Iran to Syria in 2009 after pressure from the US, confiscating its cargo for being in violation of UN sanctions on Iran.

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The intensity of the blast caused extensive damage to property nearby and to a popular tourist resort 3 km away, where windows and doors of beachside restaurants were blown out.

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