By Peter Stevenson
RULING DISY has asked for help from the European Commission in order to deal with the oil spill off the coast of the Karpas near the village of Gastria in the north.
DISY leader Averof Neophytou and a group of representatives visited the European Commission officers in Nicosia yesterday and after discussions with head Georgios Markopouliotis requested intervention from the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA).
“We would like to thank EMSA for their consideration to help in this matter,” Neophytou said.
Speaking at an emergency meeting of the House Environment Committee yesterday, the foreign ministry’s Tassos Tzionis hailed the immediate response of the UN in the after math of the spill. UNFICYP had coordinated and passed information between the two sides first when the Greek Cypriot side first offered help, but the Turkish Cypriots refused but later changed their minds, and booms were sent across the buffer zone.
A fisheries department official told the committee that there was currently no danger of the oil spill entering government-controlled waters and that for the next ten days there would be increased patrols in the area.
Deputies expressed their satisfaction that both the foreign ministry and President Nicos Anastasiades offered help to the north, and had sought help from the European Commission. They also asked for Turkey to be reported to the UN for initially rejecting Greek Cypriot assistance.
Help was only accepted after the Cyprus Chambers of Commerce intervened and cooperated with the Turkish Cypriot chamber.
Tzionis said information gathered by the foreign ministry indicated that around 100 people from Turkey had been brought over to deal with the spill along with a number of absorbent booms. He added that according to UN reports, the oil spill is seven kilometres long up-and-down the Karpasia peninsula coastline.
“Our goal was not to seek political gains but to face and limit the disaster,” Tzonis said.
In a letter, the Commission expressed its concern at both the forest fire in the Karpasia area on Wednesday and the oil spill on Tuesday. They said it was important that both communities had created an action plan to deal with fires and hailed the fact that both chambers of commerce cooperated to deal with the spill. Finally they said that the creation of a common disaster response mechanism would be welcome.
Turkish Cypriot daily Halkin Sesi reported that in an effort to clean up the beaches, some hotels in the area attempted to bury the contaminated sand but were caught.
They also reported that the supply of water from the desalination plant in Vokolida stopped due to the fear of possible pollution of the underground sources from the oil. According to the paper, water is supplied by tanker to the inhabitants of the area.
Daily Afrika said the disaster was greater than reported and the sea off Famagusta had been closed for the rest of the summer. Experts say it will take months to clean up the spill.