Cyprus // Larnaka and around //

The big bang: January 11, 2011

In the early hours of January 11, 2011, thousands of people in Larnaka district were awoken by a huge explosion at the Evangelos Florakis naval base just outside Zygi. A hundred containers of gunpowder and other explosives being stored at the base (confiscated from a Cyprus-registered ship taking them from Iran to the Gaza Strip in 2009) had ignited, either spontaneously or by the spread of a bush fire. Thirteen people died in the blast, among them the commander-in-chief of the navy, and damage was caused throughout the area. Cars on the Lemesos to Larnaka motorway were showered with debris, almost all the windows in Zygi were smashed, schools in both British Sovereign Bases had to be closed and the BBC transmitters broadcasting to the Middle East went off the air. Most seriously in the long term, the power station at nearby Vassilikou, which produced around half of the country’s electricity, was destroyed. As a result, a rolling programme of power cuts had to be introduced, and generators brought in from Greece and Israel. Disputes as to who was to blame started immediately and continue to this day.