Explosion at Cyprus naval base, 10 feared dead

A huge explosion _ likely sparked by a brush fire that set light to containers of gunpowder _ tore through a Cypriot National Guard naval base Monday, causing widespread damage, the Defense Ministry said. At least 10 people were feared dead.
The ministry said the explosion occurred at the Evangelos Florakis Naval Base on the Mediterranean island's southern coast at around 6 a.m. (0300GMT). State radio said the dead included two Cyprus navy sailors, two soldiers and five firefighters.
Footage broadcast on state television CyBC showed numerous damaged cars stopped along a stretch of highway near the base. One person who was in a car passing the base at the time of the explosion told CyBC that it felt like "a bomb had been dropped on the car."
CyBC said the explosion also caused numerous injuries and extensive damage to homes in villages near the naval base.
A ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was not complete said it appeared to have been caused by a brush fire that broke out nearby and spread to the base.
The fire ignited gunpowder stored in containers that Cypriot authorities confiscated in February 2009 from a ship sailing off its coast. The ship, the Cypriot-flagged Monchegorsk, had been suspected of carrying the gunpowder from Iran to Gaza.
State radio quoted National Guard Chief Petros Tsalikides who is at the naval base as saying that the explosion caused a "great catastrophe."
Police spokesman Michalis Katsounotos said that a fire at a nearby Vasiliko power station has been contained.
Cyprus Electricity Authority official Yiannis Tsouloftas said the power station _ the island's primary electricity generator _ sustained extensive damage as a result of the explosion's concussion wave and will remain offline for at least Monday.
Tsouloftas said the island's two other smaller power stations will try to cover electricity demand, but authorities are appealing to the public to reduce consumption as much as possible.

Updated : 2021-01-28 14:39 GMT+08:00