Evangelos Florakis Naval Base explosion

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Evangelos Florakis Naval Base explosion
Vasilikos explosion crater1.jpg
The crater produced by the explosion, photographed in 2013
Native name Έκρηξη στη ναυτική βάση «Ευάγγελος Φλωράκης»
Date11 July 2011 (2011-07-11)
Time05:50 EEST
Location Zygi, Cyprus
Coordinates 34°43′41″N33°17′08″E / 34.7281°N 33.2855°E / 34.7281; 33.2855 Coordinates: 34°43′41″N33°17′08″E / 34.7281°N 33.2855°E / 34.7281; 33.2855
TypeAccidental explosion
Deaths13
Non-fatal injuries62

On 11 July 2011, a large amount of ammunition and military explosives that had been stored outdoors for over two years at the Evangelos Florakis Naval Base near Zygi, Cyprus, self-detonated, killing 13 people, including the Commander of the Navy, Andreas Ioannides, the base commander and six firefighters. A further 62 people were injured. [1] [2]

Ammunition General term for a wide range of weapon items such as bombs, missiles, mines and projectiles

Ammunition is the material fired, scattered, dropped or detonated from any weapon. Ammunition is both expendable weapons and the component parts of other weapons that create the effect on a target. Nearly all mechanical weapons require some form of ammunition to operate.

Evangelos Florakis Naval Base naval base in Cyprus

The Evangelos Florakis Naval Base is a Cyprus Navy base, situated on the island's southern coast adjacent to the Vasilikos industrial area and power plant, near Zygi, between Limassol and Larnaca. Prior to 11 July 2011, it was the main location of the Command of the Navy Base, one of the five primary commands of the Navy. It was responsible for overseeing all naval shore installations, facilities and associated personnel. The Command's current status is unclear.

Zygi Place in Larnaca District, Cyprus

Zygi is a small village on the south coast of Cyprus, between Limassol and Larnaca. Before 1974, Zygi had a mixed Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot population.

Contents

The ammunitions had been seized in 2009 from a cargo ship bound for Syria, and were awaiting disposal. The explosion severely damaged hundreds of buildings in Zygi and the nearby Vasilikos power station, Cyprus' largest one, causing widespread disruption in the supply of power to the island.

As a result of the incident, demonstrations were held in the capital Nicosia by angered citizens, leading to the resignation of the Cypriot Defence Minister and the Commander-in-Chief of the Cypriot National Guard.

Nicosia City

Nicosia is the largest city, capital, and seat of government of the island of Cyprus. It is located near the centre of the Mesaoria plain, on the banks of the River Pedieos.

Cypriot National Guard combined military forces of Cyprus

The Cypriot National Guard, also known as the Greek Cypriot National Guard or simply National Guard, is the combined arms military force of the Republic of Cyprus. This force consists of air, land, sea and special forces elements, and is highly integrated with its first and second line reserves, as well as supporting civilian agencies and paramilitary forces.

The explosion was the worst peacetime military accident ever recorded in Cyprus, and is ranked as the fifth largest non-nuclear human-induced explosion in history, with a yield of approximately 2 to 3.2 kilotons. [3]

Cyprus Island country in Mediterranean

Cyprus, officially the Republic of Cyprus, is an island country in the Eastern Mediterranean and the third largest and third most populous island in the Mediterranean, located south of Turkey, west of Syria and Lebanon, northwest of Israel, north of Egypt, and southeast of Greece.

TNT equivalent is a convention for expressing energy, typically used to describe the energy released in an explosion. The "ton of TNT" is a unit of energy defined by that convention to be 4.184 gigajoules, which is the approximate energy released in the detonation of a metric ton of TNT. In other words, for each gram of TNT exploded, 4,184 joules of energy are released.

Background

Cyprus location map.svg
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Evangelos Florakis Naval Base
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Nicosia
Location of the incident within Cyprus

The Evangelos Florakis Navy Base is a Cyprus Navy base, situated near Zygi, between Limassol and Larnaca. [4]

Cyprus Navy maritime warfare branch of Cyprus military

The Cyprus Naval Command is the armed sea wing of the Cyprus National Guard. This force does not possess any capital ships or other major warships, but is equipped with patrol boats, landing craft, surface-to-surface missile systems and integrated radar systems, as well as SEALs-type naval underwater demolitions units. The Cyprus Navy has the primary mission of defending the sea borders of the Republic of Cyprus, but is currently unable to access waters around Northern Cyprus which are controlled by the Turkish Navy since the 1974 conflict.

Limassol Place in Limassol District, Cyprus

Limassol is a city on the southern coast of Cyprus and capital of the eponymous district. Limassol is the second largest urban area in Cyprus after Nicosia, with an urban population of 183,658 and a metropolitan population of 239,842. Limassol has been ranked by TripAdvisor as the 3rd up-and-coming destination in the world, in its Top 10 Traveler’s Choice Destinations on the Rise. The city is also ranked 89th worldwide in Mercer's Quality of Living Survey (2017). In the ranking published by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network, Limassol has been classified global city in the 4th category.

Larnaca Place in Larnaca District, Cyprus

Larnaca is a city on the Southern coast of Cyprus and the capital of the eponymous district. It is the third-largest city in the country, after Nicosia and Limassol, with a metro population of 144,200 in 2015.

In open storage on the base were 98 containers of 120 mm, 122 mm, 125 mm, and 160 mm high explosive artillery shells, 7.62 mm shell casings, compressed gunpowder, silver dollar-sized slugs,[ quantify ] primers, and magnesium primers that had been seized by the United States Navy in 2009 after it intercepted a Cypriot-flagged, Russian-owned vessel, Monchegorsk, travelling from Iran to Syria in the Red Sea. [5] [6] [7] [8] According to leaked US cables through WikiLeaks, released in 2011, the US through Hillary Clinton exerted pressure on Cyprus to confiscate the shipment. [9] The ship was escorted to a Cypriot port and the Cyprus Navy was given responsibility for the explosives, which it moved to the Evangelos Florakis a month later. [10] At the time of the incident in 2011, the explosives had apparently been left in the open for over two years. The Cypriot government had declined offers from Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States to remove or dispose of the material, fearing an adverse reaction from Syria. [6] The government had instead requested that the UN effect the removal, but claimed that its request had been rejected. [11]

Cartridge (firearms) type of ammunition packaging a bullet or shot, a propellant substance, and a primer within a metallic, paper, or plastic case

A cartridge is a type of pre-assembled firearm ammunition packaging a projectile, a propellant substance and an ignition device (primer) within a metallic, paper or plastic case that is precisely made to fit within the barrel chamber of a breechloading gun, for the practical purpose of convenient transportation and handling during shooting. Although in popular usage the term "bullet" is often used to refer to a complete cartridge, it is correctly used only to refer to the projectile.

Gunpowder explosive most commonly used as propellant in firearms

Gunpowder, also known as black powder to distinguish it from modern smokeless powder, is the earliest known chemical explosive. It consists of a mixture of sulfur (S), charcoal (C), and potassium nitrate (saltpeter, KNO3). The sulfur and charcoal act as fuels while the saltpeter is an oxidizer. Because of its incendiary properties and the amount of heat and gas volume that it generates, gunpowder has been widely used as a propellant in firearms, artillery, rockets, and fireworks, and as a blasting powder in quarrying, mining, and road building.

Slug (coin) object used falsely as a coin

A slug is a counterfeit coin that is used to make illegal purchases from a coin-operated device, such as a vending machine, payphone, parking meter, transit farebox, copy machine, coin laundry, gaming machine, or arcade game. By resembling various features of a genuine coin, including the weight, size, and shape, a slug is designed to trick the machine into accepting it as a real coin.

Explosion

The explosion occurred at 05:50 EEST (02:50 UTC) following a fire caused by explosions of several containers starting one hour and 20 minutes earlier. Extensive damage was caused in a wide area surrounding the blast. The Vasilikos Power Station, the largest power facility on Cyprus, which provided approximately half the island's electricity, was severely damaged, causing widespread power cuts which affected much of Nicosia, the Cypriot capital, over 40 miles (65 km) from the Evangelos Florakis base. [12]

The blast killed 12 people on the spot and injured a further 62, of whom two were injured seriously with one dying later increasing the number of dead to 13. Among those killed were Captain Andreas Ioannides, the Commander of the Navy (the head of the Cyprus Navy) and Commander Lambros Lambrou, 45, the commander of the Evangelos Florakis base. [13] Also killed were four other Cyprus Navy personnel and six civilian firefighters who had been tackling the small blaze that led to the explosion. [6]

Aftermath

The Vasilikos power station two days after the explosion Vasilikos blowup damage IMG 3315.JPG
The Vasilikos power station two days after the explosion

The €700 million-power station was reduced to a "mangled shell", and the electricity supply to approximately half of Cyprus was interrupted. The Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) later instituted rolling blackouts in order to conserve the supply and stated that it would import generators from Greece and Israel while the damage, estimated at €2 billion, was being repaired. [10] The rolling blackouts lasted for two to three hours in each area and were planned to affect only residential areas.

The station's installed capacity was 47% of EAC's total and would have soon increased to 55% with the delivery of Unit 5. [14] A private deal was signed on 16 July for the supply of up to 80MW from Northern Cyprus until the end of August. [15] [16]

Funerals were held for the majority of the dead, including Ioannides, on 13 July. [17]

Concerns were raised that some of the substances in the containers may have been toxic, but the Cypriot Health Minister announced on 20 July that no public health risk had been detected, although residents would be kept under observation as a "precautionary measure". [18]

Political repercussions

The Cypriot Defence Minister, Costas Papacostas, and the National Guard Commander-in-Chief, General Petros Tsalikidis, both resigned from their offices as a result of the incident. [7] [11] The government announced that an independent inquiry into the incident would be held [10] and Cyprus Police announced that it would launch a criminal investigation. [19] The explosion destroyed several houses and over 250 others suffered lesser damage, displacing approximately 150 people. [6] [10]

Several thousand people upset by the Cypriot government's failure to dispose of the explosives held a demonstration in the capital Nicosia on 12 July. A group of about fifty broke away from the demonstration and stormed the grounds of the Presidential Palace, demanding the resignation of Dimitris Christofias, President of Cyprus. [20] The breakaway group was almost immediately apprehended by the Cyprus Police, who nonetheless used tear gas ten minutes after the incident had begun in an attempt to disperse the crowds. [11] The protests continued into 13 July and 20 people were arrested during the disorder. [17]

On 19 July, Markos Kyprianou, the Cypriot Foreign Minister, resigned, becoming the second cabinet minister to resign over [21] the explosion.

On 3 October, Polys Polyviou, the independent state-appointed investigator charged to look into potential responsibility by state and other officials leading to the 11 July blast, [22] released a 643-page document detailing his findings of the investigation, concluding that Cypriot president Dimitris Christofias is mainly to blame for the events that led to the explosion. According to the investigation, the president has institutional and very serious personal responsibility for the disaster. [23] [24] The investigator said that the attorney-general should look into the possibility of serious crimes—including manslaughter—being committed by all involved, without exception. The president Dimitris Christofias rejected the results of the investigation, denying any personal responsibility and accusing Mr. Polyviou of exceeding his mandate. [25] [26]

Economic repercussions

Of Cyprus' US$24.66bn economy, the EU estimates that the cost of the explosion to the island could amount to US$2.83bn, with cost of the power plant itself coming to US$992m. This was weeks before the Bank of Cyprus and other business leaders said "deep spending cuts are needed fast." [27]

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