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12 dead in Cyprus naval base blast

Huge blasts in a seized Iranian arms cache at a Greek Cypriot naval base in southern Cyprus killed at least 12 people today, triggering power and water outages at the height of the summer.

world Updated: Jul 11, 2011 19:33 IST

Huge blasts in a seized Iranian arms cache at a Greek Cypriot naval base in southern Cyprus killed at least 12 people on Monday, triggering power and water outages at the height of the summer.

In what commerce minister Antonis Paschalides called a "tragedy of Biblical dimensions" for the small Mediterranean island, the explosions devastated the adjacent Vassiliko power station. The plant accounts for almost 60% of supply.

The blasts also caused massive damage to homes in the nearby village of Mari, forcing the evacuation of its population of 150 people, its mukhtar or headman, Nikos Asprou, told AFP.

Government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said 62 people were injured, two of them seriously, announcing three days of official mourning with flags on state buildings to be flown at half-mast.

Defence minister Costas Papacostas and Greek Cypriot National Guard commander Petros Tsaliklides resigned over the blasts at an emergency cabinet meeting, Stefanou said. The defence ministry had held talks last week about the storage conditions after National Guard chiefs reportedly expressed concerns about them being kept in the open as temperatures touched 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

"Decisions were taken on protecting the material but unfortunately this was not possible as time ran out," Stefanou said, promising a "thorough investigation". The official CNA news agency said the death toll of 12 killed could rise as a number of people were posted as missing at the blast site which had been reduced to scorched earth.