Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said on Sunday that the state is obliged to be as diligent and wise as possible in crisis management, honouring the 13 servicemen who died in the munitions blast near Limassol ten years ago, that decimated the nearby central power station at Vasiliko and brought the economy to its knees.
Anastasiades and House President Anita Demetriou, as well as the administration’s Cabinet members, were among officials who attended the memorial service at the Evangelos Florakis naval base at Mari, the site where containers full of arms and ammunition were negligently allowed to be stored in the open.
Over the years, the containers, confiscated on their way to the regime in Syria, started leaking and at dawn on July 11, 2011, due to extreme hot weather, caught fire.
First responders included naval cadets and officers from the base, joined by firemen, trying to put out the blaze. It rapidly got out of control and blew up, creating a large crater and felt in the capital Nicosia, 80km away.
All 13 soldiers and firemen on the scene were killed.
The poor handling of the crisis at the time and the subsequent collapse of the economy contributed to then President Christofias losing the elections in early 2013.
“Honour and glory to the 13 young men who were sacrificed in the line of duty,” said House Speaker Demetriou.
“We have an obligation to never forget this sacrifice and we must never allow such a tragedy to happen again,” she added.
Delivering the eulogy and expressing his utmost respect to the relatives of the 13 who died, President Anastasiades said, “we have an obligation to maintain the readiness of all those who work in similar positions, protecting [the first responders] and ensuring safety measures in the fulfillment of their mission.
“At the same time, their sacrifice makes us responsible to defend the right of every citizen to feel safe, to prosper and to develop in a modern state.
“In this direction, we have a duty to continue through unity and mobilisation of forces the reform and modernisation of state structures.”
Already, the government announced €18 mln in procurement for equipment to be allocated to the fire service and the emergency rescue squad EMAK after a deadly fire last weekend destroyed 55 sq.km. of forest land and took the lives of four Egyptian farmhands who got caught in the blaze.
In 2016, similar fires engulfed the Solea forest, prompting air support from Greece and Israel and other European firefighters. However, recent news reports suggested that a plan for the purchase of a pair of Canadair-Bombardier fire fighting aircraft was cancelled for unknown reasons in 2018.
Guterres must clarify Cyprus position
Speaking to the press after the memorial service, President Anastasiades also called on UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres “to be clearer as regards the issue of Famagusta.”
He said that comments by the UN chief about “equal ingrained rights” by both communities is interpreted by the Turkish Cypriot side as one of “equality in sovereignty”.
Asked what action could be taken on the President Erdogan’s plans to reopen and repopulate the occupied city of Famagusta in view of the Turkish leader’s visit to the occupied territories, the President said that “the National Council will convene on July 14.
“We will discuss the whole situation, how the conditions are changed and of course what is threatened through Erdogan’s statements or the actions of Turkey and concern the settlement or any other steps that change the status quo of Famagusta.”