At least 15 killed in blast at Cyprus military base

At least 15 killed in blast at Cyprus military base

At least 15 people were killed and more than 42 injured Monday in an explosion at a southern Cyprus military base depot containing confiscated ammunition from the Middle East, state media reported.

Government officials could not immediately confirm the exact cause of the explosion, which took place just before 6 am (0400 GMT) at the Evangelos Florakis Naval Base, near the city of Limassol and knocked out 50 per cent of the island's power supply, DPA reported.

State television CyBC said at least 15 people were feared dead, while 42 were rushed to hospital. Doctors appealed to citizens all over the island to donate blood.

Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias, who described the scene at the base as a "biblical catastrophe," called an emergency cabinet meeting for later on Monday.

The blast was believed to have occurred in a dump housing more than 98 containers of munitions that Cyprus had confiscated from a vessel heading to Syria from Iran in 2009.

Cypriot officials had confiscated the vessel's cargo for being in violation of United Nations sanctions on Iran.

Police cut off traffic between Limassol and Nicosia as thick clouds of black smoke were seen rising above the base and drifting towards the two cities.

The blast knocked out the largest power plant at Vassilikos, which provides the island with half of its electricity, causing officials to urge citizens to reduce consumption and use generators.

Officials said the island's two other smaller power stations will try to cover the electricity demand while the main plant will undergo emergency repairs.

Police spokesman Michalis Katsounotos said firefighters had managed to contain a fire that had broken out at the power station immediately following the blast.

The explosion caused extensive damage to homes in villages near the naval base, with glass shards from blown-out windows and pieces of metal scattered on the streets. Dozens of restaurants and bars of a popular beachside holiday resort were also damaged.

Residents in the capital of Nicosia woke to the news with power cuts and limited communications, as telephone and mobile lines were jammed.

Officials said they would seek emergency assistance from the European Union.

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