THE SHOCKWAVE from the blast at the Mari naval base completely devastated the island’s main power plant at Vassilikos, which is set to lead to prolonged electricity and water cuts as the summer heat sets in.
It was shortly before 6am when the sonic boom from the explosion at the naval base hit the Vasilikos power plant. The shockwave twisted and even ripped metal sheets off the walls of the main building, caused parts of the roof to cave in, leaving the structure disfigured.
The gate tender on duty suffered serious injuries and was rushed to hospital.
Several employees working the morning shift were treated for light injuries.
The building was pelted by flying shrapnel – mostly pieces of pipe and metal shards – believed to have been ejected from the munitions that exploded in the nearby naval base, just 300m away.
A fire broke out inside the administration building but was quickly put out. The cause of the fire was not immediately clear. Other small outbreaks of fire occurred in the fields surrounding the building but were also extinguished by firefighters.
Luckily, the fuel tanks at the site escaped the flames.
Sources said the force of the shockwave was such that it crushed the roofs of cars that were parked there.
“The tops of the cars are now resting on the seats,” one eyewitness said.
The site has been declared unsafe to all except teams deployed to clear up the debris.
Inside, extensive damage was caused to equipment.
Proper damage assessment will begin today. Sources said that all five power units (one of which is a combined-cycle unit) have been damaged to varying degrees.
And it could take months before the station is back online, costing millions.
“We should probably brace for a tough, hot summer,” the same sources said.
Following emergency meetings between the Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) and the Transmission System Operator, the EAC said yesterday it was examining “all possible scenarios” to deal with the sudden electricity supply problem.
“Unfortunately it appears that the disaster is much larger than we initially expected,” said EAC chairman Harris Thrassou.
One quick-fix option the EAC is looking at is purchasing several mobile power generators.
The EAC is appealing to the public to keep electrical consumption at a minimum, and avoid using air-conditioning units in particular.
With more than half of the island’s power now unavailable, the state-run utility said it had no choice but to introduce daily power cuts throughout the island on a rotational basis.
The duration of these measures is unknown, the EAC said.
Stelios Stylianou, the EAC’s general manager said there would be two-hour power cuts daily for everyone.
The maximum output of the two remaining power stations was 690 mw whereas demand for this time of year was in the region of 1,000mw, Stylianou explained. This was why there had to be cuts.
EAC’s plan was to create 13 districts, he said, with each one having a two-hour power cut each day. The EAC could not yet inform subscribers when each district would have its power cut, but hoped to release that information in the next few days.
Vital services – hospitals, airports, police— as well as tourist resorts and manufacturing units would be given priority so as to ensure an uninterrupted power supply.
Yesterday’s power outages caused no major problems for hospitals thanks to their generators Banks and large department stores also turned on their generators but were operating on a shoestring, with minimal lighting. Air conditioning units remained off.
“There’s a realization that we all have to chip in, to make some sacrifices…but this is nothing, compared to what happened to the loss of life today,” said one bank employee.
Hermes Airports announced it would be cutting back on electricity consumption at the island’s two airports. Similar pledges were made by the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority (CyTA).
In Nicosia, the Fire Department received around 50 calls from people trapped in elevators.
Meanwhile power-hungry desalination plants have necessarily been taken offline – leading in turn to water cuts.
The Nicosia Water Board announced a rationing system for the various areas of the capital. Taps will run for 12 hours (from 6am to 6pm or vice versa) every other day, Monday through Friday. Water supply for Sundays will be allotted according to availability.