Cyprus Mail

Families of Mari victims mourn loved ones but look to future

The governmnt honours the men killed at the Mari naval base explosions

As Cyprus marks six years since the Mari blast, which killed 13 people, families of the victims say they are saying they are looking to the future for the good of the country.

The explosion at the Evangelos Florakis naval base on July 11, 2011, happened when 98 containers of munitions exploded after being left in an open space for two years in Cyprus’ boiling hot temperatures, after authorities had been repeatedly warned of the dangers. Seven sailors and six firemen died, another 62 people were injured and the power plant at Vasilikos was knocked out.

The events prompted demonstrations calling for the resignation of then-president Demetris Christofias, who maintains his innocence despite findings by independent investigator Polys Poliviou – whom he appointed – finding Christofias guilty and calling for his prosecution.

Popi Christoforou, the mother of 18-year-old twins who died in Mari, asked government officials not to attend memorial for them on Sunday.

“My sons did not get to celebrate their nineteenth birthday,” she said.

On Tuesday, President Nicos Anastasiades will attend another memorial for all of the victims at a church built at the naval base.

“We do not live in the tragedy of what happened, we do not remain in the ashes. From July 11, 2011, we, as a family, have moved forward for the good of the country and truly, in the past six years, a lot of things have changed for the good of the society we live in,” Christoforou told the Protoselido TV show.

She said she believed that procedures had become more meticulous because of the tragedy – although there is still a long way to go.

“Authority needs to respect the law. This is slowly coming about,” Christoforou said.

Commenting on whether she felt justice had been served, she said Polyviou’s report was equivalent to holy scriptures for the families “despite the fact that it has not been implemented.”

Nicolas Ioannides, the son of naval captain Andreas Ioannides who died in Mari, said that not all of those who had been implicated in the explosion had paid the price. He added that responsibilities need to be investigated and it shouldn’t be that “someone” is being protected after so many years.

Apart from the 13 that died – 12 at the scene and one who succumbed to his injuries later –  62 people were injured. Ioannides said the those affected carry the mental scars to this day.

“We decided our life should move on and not end on that day. We should move on with our studies, work and life,” he said.

Former defence minister Costas Papacostas was sentenced to five years in jail in 2013 on charges of manslaughter. He was transferred to Nicosia general hospital under guard, citing serious health problems, and died while serving time.

Firemen Andreas Nicolaou and Charalambos Charalambous, and commander of the disaster response team EMAK, Andreas Loizides, were found guilty of causing death due to reckless and dangerous acts and sentenced to two years each.

Families received compensation from the government last year, which accepted full responsibility for their deaths.

The victims were Andreas Ioannides, Lambros Lambrou, Kleanthis Kleanthous, Mihalis Eracleous, Miltiades and Christakis Christoforou, Antonis Charalambous, Andreas Papadopoulos, Vasilis Krokos, Spyros Ttantis, Panagiotis Theofilou, Yeorgios Yiakoumi and Adamos Adamou.

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