Last week, several containers of ammunition – part of a stockpile of 98 containers confiscated in 2009 from an Iranian ship heading for Syria – exploded at the navy base near a coastal town. Thirteen men were killed including twin brothers who were helping their commander and six firemen put out a fire that was threatening the containers. The naval base was destroyed, and the brand new power station right next door – responsible for delivering over 50% of Cyprus's electrical power – was so badly damaged that it will have to be rebuilt and this will take months. Nearby houses and villages were extensively damaged and sixty-two people were injured, one remains critical.
Despite numerous reports from the Base Commander and other senior officers stating that the containers were deteriorating and that urgent action needed to be taken, nothing was done. And a brush fire, so common during these hot summer days, triggered a catastrophe. Due to the integrity of the base commander, who ordered hundreds of conscripts packed into trucks and evacuated rather than sending them out to fight the fire, the early hour of the morning, leading to a nearly empty motorway rather than one packed with commuters, and that it was not a weekend, packed with people at the beach and local fish taverns, this tragedy is still not as bad as it could have been.
Everyone here is angry. This being such a small country, most people somehow know someone who was affected by this. Even if you weren't directly affected, the wipe out of the new power station means that the entire island is being rationed electricity because the two remaining power stations are old and cannot keep up. We have our electricity cut one to two times a day, for 2hour time periods each time. Some areas have cuts more frequently. For us this is just an inconvenience. These are the hottest months of the year, with temperatures easily reaching well over 100F, and obviously the power cuts occur at times where air-conditioning is most in demand. Business are also affected as the power cuts are unpredictable and half way through their day they are rendered useless, as so much of what we do is dependent on electricity. Not to mention what this is doing to the economy, which up until this point was doing relatively ok all things considered. For the families that lost loved ones or have had people injured, the power cuts are a reminder of what took place a week ago, and the stupidity of the people who placed these 98 containers right next to the biggest power station and the naval base, and left them unprotected in the smoldering heat for 3 years!
Every night there are protests at the presidential palace asking for the president and his ministers to resign. For the most part these are happening peacefully, but every now and again some asshole ruins it for the rest by throwing stones at police or setting trash cans on fire.
Here are some pictures of the area before the accident:
And after the accident...
The area marked with the white square is where most of the damage is. The charcoal colored mark in the left half of the square is where the containers were and now is a 160 foot deep crater.
For the meantime we are trying to stay cool without using airconditioning and are waiting it out to see what happens. Luckily we are going on vacation soon and will be out of this heat and in a place with electricity!