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Engomi explosion ‘caused by gas leak’

engomi 1

The explosion which occurred in the Nicosia suburb of Engomi on Tuesday was caused by a gas leak, police spokesman Christos Andreou confirmed on Thursday.

Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency (CNA), he said tests carried out by the police confirmed the explosion’s cause, but that due to the destruction caused by the earthquake, the source of the gas leak and the conditions under which it occurred have not yet been determined.

In addition, the girl who was most seriously injured, an 18-year-old from Greece who lived in the building reported that there was a “strong smell of gas” shortly before the explosion, with Politis saying a gas bottle on the ground floor may have been the cause of the explosion.

Police added that at first glance, the possibility of malicious criminal intent to cause an explosion had been ruled out.

Andreou added that police are continuing their investigation to determine whether possible “criminal offences” took place to cause the explosion, and that a private company has been called in to ensure gas is not leaking through the copper gas supply pipes in the building.

The matter of “criminal offences” may pertain to the use of the building, with a number of commercial buildings in Engomi and elsewhere having been converted to be student housing for the increasing number of students studying in Cyprus.

Speaking to Phileleftheros later on Thursday, Andreou stated his belief that “while changes were made, neither the fire brigade nor the urban planning department were called to grant the necessary permits.”

Additionally, he said the 18-year-old had said there were no gas-powered appliances in her apartment.

Engomi Mayor Zacharias Kyiakou told Politis his municipality is conducting an investigation into the building which exploded, with that investigation focusing on additions and extensions to the building, and to what extent they were legal and licenced.

The building, he said, received its initial approval in 1976, before obtaining its most recent permit in 1988. That permit pertained to the erection of a three-storey building with two shops on the ground floor.

However, fire brigade spokesman Andreas Kettis had said on Tuesday that there were six studio apartments on the ground floor. The reported content of the permit, therefore, calls into question the legality of the apartments’ existence.

The 18-year-old is reportedly still being treated at the Nicosia general hospital for severe burns. She is currently unable to give an official statement to the police as the police are not allowed to visit her in hospital due to the risk of infection.

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