THE FIRST phase of the search rescue exercise ‘Argonaftis’ (Argonaut) 2015 took place yesterday, with Cyprus joining efforts with 18 other countries to test the evacuation of large numbers of people from problematic regions in the area.
The exercise consists of four phases, all taking place within the island’s Flight Information Region and Exclusive Economic Zone.
The scenario includes the safe and mass evacuation of civilians from a neighbouring country facing a humanitarian crisis.
According to the deputy head of the Civil Defence Chrisilios Chrisiliou, 200 people from the 18 countries are taking part in the exercise.
During a news conference held on Monday, Chrisiliou explained that taking part in the exercise would be military personnel, ambassadors as well as services from the foreign affairs, interior, defence and justice ministries.
Chrisiliou added that this was largest exercise that Cyprus has participated in to date.
USA, Canada, Australia, Belgium, Itlay, Great Britain and Germany are amongst the countries taking part.
Canadian lieutenant commander John Nicholson, is one of three people coordinating the exercise.
“This exercise is great opportunity to meet with people from these countries and to train people in the best possible way,” he said.
Nicholson added that the exercise was “very important” as it was one of a kind. “There is no other exercise like this one. This is the only exercise that offers training of personnel in coordinated mass evacuation procedures. This is an unbelievable opportunity,” he added.