Massive blast rocks Cypriot naval base, dozens feared dead

15:43, July 11, 2011      

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Emergency personnel are seen at the entrance of a military base where a large explosion occurred in southern Cyprus July 11, 2011. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

A massive explosion early wrecked a naval base on the south coast of Cyprus Monday morning, with unconfirmed reports that said at least 40 people are dead.

The reports also said that the number of dead may rise as rescuers are looking for bodies, including those of fire-fighters who had been battling a bush fire in the area.

Cyprus National Guard Chief Petros Tsalikidis was quoted by local media as saying that damage at the base was extensive.

"The whole place is in a mess and we are trying to handle the situation," Tsalikidis said.

He confirmed that there had been two explosions in two containers with stored explosives and munitions.

A source from the base told Xinhua the explosion was heard up to 40 kilometers away.

An earth tremor was felt several kilometers away and extensive damage was caused in a radius of 20 kilometers.

The blast also wrecked a power station near by and unconfirmed reports said a fire was still raging there several hours later.

Top defense officials en route to the base said there will not be any official statement or confirmation of reports until a clear picture of the situation emerged.

The munitions, packed in total of 98 containers, had been confiscated from a Russian ship three years ago, after a tip off from the United States that they were destined for Iran, according to Tsalikidis.

The Cypriot government, acting in accordance with UN resolutions, had detained the ship and stored the containers at the Mari Naval Base, some 70 kilometers south of the capital Nicosia.

Source: Xinhua

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