President of the Republic Nicos Anastasiades has once again apologized on behalf of the state for everything it should have done but failed to do so, to prevent the death of 13 people five years ago during a massive explosion at the naval base “Evangelos Florakis”, at Mari, on the southern coast.
The huge blast occurred on 11 July 2011 when a number of containers, full of munitions, which Cyprus had confiscated from “Monchegorsk“, a vessel sailing from Iran to Syria in 2009 exploded. As a result of the explosion and the shock wave that followed, the nearby Vassiliko power station suffered extensive damage that led to power cuts for some time after the blast.
More than 60 people were injured during the explosion.
Speaking at a memorial event at Mari, President Anastasiades assured the state will not allow similar mistakes to occur once again.
The President said that five years after the terrible disaster at Mari “we set aside our daily routine” as “today is a day for those who have positions of responsibility on this island, to reflect on how we were led to this tragedy”.
The conclusion, he added, is that “during this tragedy we lost 13 people, 13 professionals, heroes while the state exhibited unprecedented inadequacy and committed a number of repeated mistakes. Once again, we see that the worst decision is one that you put off because you are afraid to assume responsibility”, the President said.
Expressing respect for those who died, the President apologized for “everything that we ought to have done as a state and we did not” and assured that “we will not allow again such mistakes to be repeated and our country to witness similar tragedies”.
President Anastasiades said “accountability and professionalism should constitute the fundamental conditions on which a state operates on” and in this direction “we need to work towards a state that is responsible and maintains risk prevention policies at all levels”.
Remembering the youth of the National Guard, the members of the Fire and EMAK force who died while on duty, the President said “we share the pain and sorrow of the parents, spouses, children, siblings of those who tragically died bearing on their shoulders the political and administrative responsibilities of others”.
He said the chapel that the state has erected in the area is a reminder of the obligation of the state to honour those who sacrificed their lives. The chapel`s construction was funded by the Ministry of Finance and the Church of Cyprus designed the plans. Earlier, a memorial service was held for the victims of the disaster.
Nothing can alleviate the lack of their physical presence, said the President, but hoped that “this sacred site will become a spiritual relief for the relatives”.
Declaring the 13 men heroes, the President said the state has decided to provide support on a regular basis, to the spouses, parents and children of the deceased and injured of the 11th July 2011 explosion.
He also said that the Cabinet has decided to set up a committee that will monitor the problems that the relatives of the victims of the Mari explosion face.
Outside the chapel, a column with the names of the victims was placed as well as 13 individual crosses.
In the years that followed the blast, six persons, including two Ministers, were brought to justice. Four, including the then Minister of Defence, were given jail sentences in connection with the explosion on charges of causing death due to unreasonable or dangerous acts. The Minister of Defence was also found guilty of manslaughter due to neglect. The then Minister of Foreign Affairs was acquitted.