Officials assess damage from Cypriot base blast

By the Associated Press | July 12, 2011 | 5:44 AM EDT

Two special policemen, right, carried a body, killed by the explosion's concussion wave near of the Evangelos Florakis naval base in Mari, Cyprus, Monday July 11, 2011. A huge explosion tore through a Cypriot National Guard naval base causing widespread damage, the Defense Ministry said. At least 10 people were feared dead. A bush fire ignited gunpowder stored in containers that Cypriot authorities confiscated in 2009 from a ship sailing off its coast. The ship, the Cypriot-flagged Monchegorsk, had been suspected of heading from Iran to Syria, with gunpowder destined for Gaza. It was seized in February 2009. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus officals on Tuesday were assessing the damage to the island's largest power station and dozens of homes after hundreds of tons of seized gunpowder being stored at a naval base exploded.

The blast that occurred early Monday killed 12 people, including the island's navy chief, and prompted the resignation of the defense minister and the top military chief.

Rolling, two-hour power cuts were in effect island-wide after the blast knocked out the main power station, which provides more than half of the island's power demand.

Electricity Authority spokesman Costas Gavrielides said it will take months to bring the station fully back online.

Gavrielides said there is no official estimate on the cost to repair the station as investigators are still trying to ascertain the full extent of the damage.

Officials have appealed to the public to curb electricity consumption as much as possible, particularly the use of air-conditioning units despite summertime temperatures hovering at around 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

Larnaca District Officer Charalambos Eliades said more than 240 homes in communities in a five-kilometer (three-mile) radius from the blast site on the Mediterranean island's south coast sustained damage.

Eliades said most of the damage was limited to shattered window panes and doors blown in from the blast's massive concussion wave. Some homes in Mari village which is closest to the blast site at a distance of around two kilometers (one mile) also sustained roof damage, he said.

Meanwhile, Greek experts were assisting Cypriot investigators at the Evangelos Florakis base amid growing criticism over how the gunpowder had been stored. The material was seized from a ship in 2009 that the U.N. said was breaching a ban on arms exports.