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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-05-05
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>
Wednesday, May 05, 1999
 Police rule out arson in dairy infernoBy Charlie Charalambous
POLICE yesterday ruled out arson as the cause of the huge Pittas dairy fire, which left the high-tech Nicosia factory a charred shell.
The blaze is reportedly being blamed on welding apparatus that short- circuited.
This is the conclusion reached by a team of experts from the fire department and electromechanical services, who searched the burnt-out dairy with a fine comb.
The short-circuit theory being put forward by the authorities apparently coincides with the conclusions drawn by British experts who visited the site on behalf of the foreign company that insured 70 per cent of the factory.
This report has been filed to the police, who said an official statement on the cause of the fire would be released later this week.
"The fire service report makes the same conclusion as the experts, excluding criminal damage or arson as the cause, and will be made public at a later date," police spokesman Stelios Neophytou told the Cyprus Mailyesterday.
Athos Pittas, one of the dairy owners, told the Cyprus Mailyesterday that he was unaware of any final conclusions from the fire brigade investigation, but said he would be "meeting the insurance people tomorrow."
According to informed reports the welding device had been left switched on over the weekend, causing it to overload and short-circuit.
The fire, which broke out on Sunday April 25, gutted the Latsia factory, causing some £10 million worth of damage. The plant had only begun operations four months earlier.
The spanking new dairy was part of a drive by Pittas brothers Athos and Melis to open up new export markets and bolster existing ones in places like Australia, West Africa and the Gulf.
The fire came at the worst possible time for Pittas, who had expected to tie up a deal with UK supermarket giants Sainsbury's later in the year.
The island's largest and oldest dairy has vowed to rebuild on the disaster site and to bolster its hard-hit production.
There are also on-going consultations with the government for short-term assistance, such as warehouses and refrigerators that could help to revive the company.
Athos Pittas met Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis yesterday to find ways to solve the problem, and to set a date for when the dairy can again start to receive milk.
"The government has been very positive towards the company, and I will submit a more intensive programme for receiving milk," said Athos Pittas.
Wednesday, May 05, 1999
 CY signs strategic alliance with Israel's El AlBy Charlie Charalambous
CYPRUS Airways and Israeli state carrier El Al yesterday signed a wide- ranging co-operation deal to boost tourism.
"The co-operation will prove to be a lasting one as it based on a well- balanced agreement which is mutually beneficial to both airlines," CY boss Takis Kyriakides said at the ceremony in Tel Aviv.
The national airline, which recently announced pre-tax profits of £10 million for 1998, is pinning its hopes on a series of strategic alliances like the one with El Al.
"Small airlines, like CY and El Al stand a better chance of surviving and prospering if they co-operate and pool their resources," Kyriakides said.
The deal is aimed at improving services and offering competitive prices in an aggressive travel market.
The number of Israeli tourists and business travellers coming to Cyprus has increased by over 40 per cent since 1994 (from 30,000 to 53,000 last year).
Some 31,000 Cypriots travelled in the opposite direction in 1998.
Tel Aviv is the third most profitable route for CY, behind London Heathrow and Athens.
Kyriakides said the agreement would highlight the two countries as twin holiday centres.
El Al president Joel Seldschuh said the aim of the deal was to develop tourism packages from Europe and America that would combine Israel and Cyprus.
Both airlines are committed to offering additional flights to meet demand.
The timetable will be tailor-made for the needs of the Israeli leisure markets, and as the best and shortest route to travel from Cyprus to North America, South Africa and the Far East, and vice versa.
On the sensitive subject of safety, CY chief executive Demetris Pantazis said flights from Cyprus to Israel would always undergo stringent security checks.
Wednesday, May 05, 1999
 High water levels lift threat of extra rationingBy Anthony O. Miller
DEEPER dam levels this year than last mean Nicosia and other cities will get roughly the same government water ration through July as they get now, lifting the threat of harsh rationing announced in April, water officials indicated yesterday.
Government reservoirs currently hold 66.9 million cubic metres of water, roughly two-thirds more than the 40.5 cubic metres they held at this time last year, Water Development Department (WDD) data showed yesterday.
The extra water, and written WDD assurances, mean Nicosia will get 33,000 cubic metres of water per day this month and next, and probably through July, Nicosia Water Board Technical Manager Panayiotis Theodoulides said yesterday.
This is a sharp surge above the mere 29,000 cubic metres daily the WDD in April threatened to send the capital from mid-June to October - a figure only 1,000 cubic metres above April's ration and still well below the 40, 000-45,000 cubic metres the city's 200,000 residents need in a 'normal' drought-free summer day.
The increased WDD allocations let the Nicosia Water Board lift its own threat to ration water by 33 per cent in the capital, Theodoulides said.
"It will be slightly better than last year," he said. "We will try to maintain a service of no less than 12-15 hours" of water three times per week for Nicosia, "which we have right now. For the people we are supplying, this is bearable, not really comfortable, but bearable," he added.
But "bearable" is not what the WDD pledged last November 17, when it opened 73 tenders to build two 'mobile' desalination plants, he noted. The plants were to have been emergency stop-gap measures until the island's second permanent desalination plant - on which work has not yet begun - could be completed.
Acting WDD Director Christos Marcoullis at the time said he expected the two units, planned for Ayios Theodoros and Zakaki, would pump their first water in June this year.
"The official position of the Nicosia Water Board is that the government should proceed with the two desalination plants as they were announced originally," Theodoulides said.
WDD Senior Water Engineer Nicos Tsiourtis said the government was still studying where to build the two de-salting plants, now officially viewed as permanent facilities.
Ironically, the same reservoir levels that permitted lifting the threat of harsh rationing, have also reduced the urgency of erecting the two extra de- salting units. Additionally, opposition from local communities to siting the two units near their villages has also figured in delaying their construction.
President Glafcos Clerides compounded the mix in early March when, after a helicopter tour of the island's dams, he advised waiting until winter rains ended in March before deciding whether to even build the two units.
Tsiourtis said the WDD now planned permanently to hard-wire the two de- salting units to government power lines - ending their 'mobile' status as diesel generator-powered plants - and make them operational by January 2000, but no sooner.
However, he said, their combined output of some 40,000 cubic metres per day would merely replenish reservoirs, to make the dams "more reliable" for the future, instead of feeding directly into the island's urban water supply systems, as Theodoulides wants.
Meanwhile, plans continue apace so work can begin in June on the island's second permanent desalination plant outside Larnaca. Environmental impact assessments are under way, and their approval could mean construction might begin then.
The new permanent plant, the island's second, is not expected on-line before January 2001. Its maximum output, 40,000 cubic metres per day, would equal that of the Dhekelia plant, the island's sole desalination facility.
Theodoulides also played down reports in Simeriniyesterday, quoting Nicosia Water Board Director Charalambous Palanzis as declaring the capital's water pipes were in poor shape and leaking badly.
While it was true that Nicosia's underground pipes leaked, he said, the problem was less severe in the capital and Larnaca and Limassol than in Paphos, Ayia Napa, Paralimni and many smaller municipalities, whose pipe systems date from the 1950s.
The leaks came to light when full pressure was applied to the pipes to allow the unrationed flow of water to Nicosia homes over the Easter Holidays, he said.
The increased water pressure unmasked "fatigue" in the pipes that was caused by the last several years of water rationing, he explained. The unmasking of the leaks allowed them to be repaired, Theodoulides said, adding this had now been done.
Nicosia loses about 12 per cent of its 33,000 cubic-metre daily supply, mostly due to leakage, but also to water metre error, flushing of pipes and fire brigade use, he said.
Pipes in the Old City of Nicosia were replaced in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Theodoulides said, so these leak least, as "a 30-year-old network is considered new." Pipes in the capital's newer neighbourhoods also show little leakage, he said.
By comparison, areas between the Old City and the newer neighbourhoods of Nicosia - where pipes were laid down in the 1950s - show the greatest water loss due to leakage, he added.
"Water systems have a useful life of about 80 to 90 years. We don't have any part of our network older than that," he said. "The water supply network in Nicosia, and Cyprus in general, is in its middle age. It still has another 40 to 50 years to go."
Wednesday, May 05, 1999
 Telephonists, taxis take protests to the PresidentSTRIKING government telephonists yesterday blocked the road outside the Presidential Palace in the second day of their 48-hour strike.
The telephonists, who are demanding salary upgrades and the hiring of more personnel, also threatened further action if their demands were not met.
The road was blocked by protestors for about 20 minutes in the morning. Representatives of the telephonists reiterated that they were blocking the road because, although they had submitted petitions before, there had received no response.
The strike, which began on Monday, was set to end this morning at 7.30am.
Also protesting outside the palace yesterday were rural taxi drivers from Ayia Napa, who presented a petition to palace representatives. The drivers are protesting a government plan to bring them into line with urban taxi drivers over licensing regulations. Government representatives promised that the matter would be discussed at the next meeting of the Council of Ministers.
Kyriacos Timotheou, President of the Pancyprian Association of Professional Drivers, described the licensing decision as "illegal", and said that the drivers had tried everything to make officials see their point. "We have no other choice but to come to the president," he concluded.
Wednesday, May 05, 1999
 Civil service unions meet to co-ordinate health plan strategyCIVIL service unions met yesterday to discuss the action they could take in protest at the proposed new national health plan.
Members of public servants' union Pasydy, teachers' union Oelmek, elementary school teachers' union Poed, the Police Association and others yesterday insisted that the health plan violated their terms of employment.
An announcement issued after the meeting also stated that the International Public Services Association PSI had already expressed its support for their cause and had approached President Glafcos Clerides on the issue.
The unions are concerned that contributions made from members' wages will exceed the amount they already pay out to their union health schemes.
The unions yesterday repeated that the new plan contravened an agreement on health care signed in 1996 between the government and public servants.
The unions also announced that they would be watching developments on the issue closely and would not rule out taking measures if their demands were not met.
Wednesday, May 05, 1999
 House seeks tighter controls on speed boatsTHE HOUSE Communications and Works Committee yesterday continued discussion on new regulations for safety lanes, speed boats and other fast-moving water vehicles.
With the aim of limiting noise pollution and ensuring the safety of swimmers, the Committee and Communications Minister Leontios Ierodiaconou agreed that the number of boat lanes to the beach should be cut.
But some members of the Committee were worried that fewer safety lanes might mean a crowding of water-sport facilities. Ierodiaconou, however, sought to reassure them, saying the number of passages closed would not significantly affect water-sports.
The Committee then suggested the introduction of the measures be delayed until the summer of 2001, to give those affected the opportunity to adjust, but Ierodiaconou said that the proposals should be enforced as soon as possible.
Representatives from the Cyprus Tourism Organisation, the police and the Central Committee on Beaches all agreed with the minister.
Other proposed changes include making life-vests, breathing apparatus, first-aid kits, oars, fire extinguishers and water containers mandatory equipment on any boat, regardless of its size.
Other proposals include barring people from driving a boat after consuming alcohol, for drivers to need a special licence and for boat owners to pay tariffs for their permits.
Committee discussions on the issue began in October last year following a spate of serious accidents involving jet-skis and other vessels.
Wednesday, May 05, 1999
 Man held for shooting fatherA 28-YEAR-OLD Limassol man was arrested yesterday on suspicion of trying to kill his 65-year-old father.
Sotiris Sotiriou from Kato Polemidhia was taken into custody after allegedly shooting his father through the windscreen of his car outside his mother's house.
Sotiriou's father Andreas, alias Kalio, suffered serious injuries to the face and neck from the single shot fired from a small hunting gun, police said.
He was rushed to Limassol hospital, where doctors said his injuries were serious but his life was not in danger.
According to police, 'Kalio' and his wife are separated, and he was visiting her house yesterday when an argument broke out with his son, who lives with his mother.
Police said Sotiris Sotiriou asked his father to leave the house, which he did.
But police said just as his father was driving away, the suspect appeared brandishing a small hunting gun, ran in front of the car and fired one shot through the windscreen.
Sotiriou was arrested by two officers who happened to be passing by a the time of the incident, police said.
Wednesday, May 05, 1999
 Police find pistol in dam murder casePOLICE yesterday used specialised magnetic equipment to retrieve a pistol believed to have been used in the murder of Photis Petrakides at the end of March.
On Monday, police had found a kalashnikov also allegedly used in the murder. Both weapons had been dumped in a 350-foot well near Aradippou.
The weapons are now undergoing ballistic and other police examinations.
Petrakides' body was found in Aradippou dam on April 2. Police believe he had been dead for three days.
Two men have been arrested in connection with the murder - 22-year-old Georgios Christodoulou on April 7 and Christos Iakouris, 26, late last mont.
Iakouris has incriminated Christodoulou, also taking police to the murder site and to where the body and guns had been dumped. He says he accompanied he Christodoulou on the night of the murder, not knowing what he had in store for Petrakides.
Unconfirmed reports have suggested that Petrakides, 55, was working undercover for the police in an attempt to infiltrate a drug and gun running racket operating out of the occupied areas.
Wednesday, May 05, 1999
 New arrest in stolen cheques caseANOTHER person was remanded in custody yesterday in connection with a UK robbery in which nearly £200,000 of travellers' cheques were stolen.
Famagusta District Court remanded insurance broker Demetris Georgiou Theodorou, 35, from Ayia Anna for seven days.
Asking for the remand, investigating officer sergeant Haris Hadjiyiasemi told the court that a witness had named Theodorou as the middleman acting between two other suspects in the case, Maria Christofi, 29, and George Lyras, 50.
Christofi was arrested last week trying to cash $10,000 and £11,400 Sterling worth of stolen travellers' cheques at an Ayia Napa bank. She was re-remanded for eight days on Monday. Lyras was released, but has not been ruled out from police enquiries.
Businessman Panayiotis Zintilis, 45 from Ayia Napa, and Haris Theocharou, 35, from Paphos, were remanded for eight days on Monday. The two men were named by Christofi.
The five are suspected of possessing and trying to cash travellers' cheques stolen from UK travel agents Lunn Poly in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, last March.
 Cyta announces top satellite link dealCYPRUS is set to become the hub of a satellite link between Asia and Europe under a deal announced yesterday by the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority (Cyta).
In an official announcement, Cyta said late yesterday that its subsidiary Digimed and British firm Merlin Communications International had on April 16 formed a joint venture, IRIS Gateway Satellite Services Ltd (IRIS).
Cyta said the new company would provide satellite turnaround and fibre connection for a high quality ground link between Asian and European satellites and communications systems.
It will allow the provision of video, audio and data distribution as well as other services, Cyta said.
The facilities should be in place by the end of July, with an official launch planned in September.
IRIS will have communication capabilities with Asian and European satellites through the Makarios Earth Station in Cyprus, and will be able to interconnect with Cyta's extensive network of satellite and fibre links.
"IRIS will provide a competitive and comprehensive service covering Asia, the Middle East and Europe," the Cyta announcement said.
Cyta will maintain, operate and manage the earth station, while Merlin Communications will carry out the sales and marketing for IRIS.
Cyta said Merlin had a ten years contract with the BBC World Service to provide a complete range of programme distribution and transmission services.
It also provides tailor-made satellite and transmission services to international broadcasters, telecommunications providers and other commercial organisations working with major satellite operators worldwide.
© Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999