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Mari Blast: State Lab Still Stonewalling on Contamination

tests on air quality after naval base blastThe state laboratory - which was set to release test results  for possible contamination from heavy metals after the naval base blast on July 11th - has not yet released them to the public.

A telephone call from to the ministry of health has not yet been returned, Dr. Poppi Kannari was in a meeting that could not be interrupted. According to her secretary, it is not even known whether the state laboratory will release a statement with the results, which are to be sent to the 'relevant authorities.'

Many residents, journalists, servicemen and women were in the immediate vicinity after the explosion and there was heavy smoke and dust which burned the eyes and throat and congested the lungs. Since July 11th there have been many reports of breathing problems, a metallic taste in the mouth, and itchy eyes.

"We understand the peoples' anxiety, but it is Dr. Poppi Kannari who will make the decisions on an official statement," said the secretary.

Our first phone calls were made between 1-2pm. At 4pm, given the urgency of the matter, we called back. Group 4 answered the phone. All the secretaries had left to go home, and Dr. Kannari was still in a meeting: "sorry, we don't have the authority to disturb her, she's in a meeting with the head of the laboratory workshop" said the Group 4 security guard when pressed to get her on the phone. A further phone call at 6pm was equally fruitless, Dr.Kannari had already left the building.

The next day, the frustrating attempts to reach the woman responsible for the state laboratory continued. Phone calls at 9am, phone calls at 11am, all were met by the same secretary's excuses for her boss, who is too busy to return the press's calls. Excuses ranged from 'she hasn't come to the office yet,' to 'she is just leaving to go to the ministry.' The secretary, who is just doing her job, was apologetic. When asked if her boss is hiding something, she said "Mrs. Kannari doesn't have anything to hide, she is not the kind of person to hide behind the telephone."

The silence is hardly reassuring. Independent test results from the University of Cyprus have ruled out the presence of gamma radiation, but according to Dr. Parpotas who conducted the tests, the state lab was responsible for testing for alpha radiation from possible nuclear materiel in the 98 containers which exploded on July 11th.

The containers were confiscated from the Cypriot-flagged MV Monchegorsk in 2009. The ship was leased by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line (IRISL) and owned by Limassol-based company NB Maritime Management. The weapons on board were en route to Syria in breach of UN sanctions and were being investigated for links to Iran's defence and nuclear industries.

Health minister Christos Patsalides made a statement yesterday saying that there was no radioactivity or danger to peoples' health judging from results so far. But his statement was lacking in conviction, and most importantly, the government is lacking in credibility after the incredible negligence leading to the accident on July 11th.

The only thing that will satisfy this publication and this reporter is full disclosure of the test results in specific detail.

Photo credit: Savvas Hadjigeorgiou


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