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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-08-12

Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>


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Thursday, August 12, 1999

CONTENTS

  • [01] Earthquake causes panic but little damage
  • [02] Eclipse? More like a hazy summer afternoon...
  • [03] Church 'outrage' at Archbishop's share handout
  • [04] Christofias doing well after kidney transplant
  • [05] Police to step traffic patrols for holiday weekend

  • [01] Earthquake causes panic but little damage

    By Martin Hellicar

    A STRONG earthquake shook Cyprus early yesterday morning, causing widespread panic and damage to some buildings -- but no serious injuries.

    Though structural damage was not serious, a number of affected homes in the Limassol area -- which suffered the brunt of the quake -- were later evacuated as a precautionary measure till repairs could be carried out.

    The 7.27am tremor measured 5.8 on the Richter scale and had its epicentre near Gerasa, North of Limassol. The main quake was preceded by a tremor measuring 4.2 on the Richter scale, recorded at 4.20am, and followed by a number of aftershocks measuring between 2.5 to 4.4 on the Richter scale.

    The tremors were felt right across the island but more intensely in Limassol.

    "It was about 7.30am and you could see the flat moving back and forth, we were having our morning tea, we did not know what to do, whether to get up or stay put," the resident of a seven-floor Limassol apartment block told the Cyprus Mail. "When a quake comes, you lose it, your legs and hands shake," he added.

    Most of the people treated in Limassol hospital after the quake were suffering from shock or minor injuries caused in the panicked rush to evacuate buildings. A total of 43 injuries were reported, almost all in the Limassol area.

    The worst injury was to a young man who suffered fractures after he jumped out of a first floor window in his haste to flee a shaking Limassol building, a hospital spokesman said.

    The fire brigade was called out on ten occasions to rescue people trapped in lifts in the town.

    Cracks appeared in a total of 82 homes round the island. Most of these were in Limassol town and its suburbs and the Limassol area villages of Gerasa and Arkounda. But Larnaca district, and Lefkara village in particular (where six homes were damaged), was also hit.

    The Public Works department was called out to clear roads following landslides in the Kivides, Gerasa, Arkounda, Amiandos and Mouttagiaka areas in the Limassol district.

    Interior Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou rushed down to Limassol to inspect the damaged areas and talk to affected residents. At 10am he chaired an emergency meeting at the Limassol District office to co-ordinate efforts to deal with damages.

    "The Minister stressed that it had been decided to take immediate action so that homes that could be dangerous be evacuated and these have already been evacuated," an official announcement released after the meeting stated.

    It was not clear yesterday how many homes had been evacuated.

    Christodoulou expressed satisfaction with the way emergency services had sprung into action after the earthquake. He said work would begin immediately on recording damages caused by the quake.

    August holidays were cancelled for District office workers needed to deal with the quake fallout.

    Following earthquakes in the recent past, the government set up compensation schemes for affected home-owners.

    The Minister dismissed as nonsense rumours that yesterday's quake was the forerunner for a much stronger tremor.

    The Seismology centre agreed: "It is believed that with these tremors the whole seismic activity is being defused," an official statement read.

    Cyprus lies in an active seismic zone and is no stranger to earthquakes.

    State seismologist Kyriacos Solomis said the Mediterranean had experienced high seismic activity this decade, which had affected many countries including Cyprus.

    He said statistics showed tremors follow a pattern of high activity for eight to 10 years followed by a lull of 35 to 50 years. The most recent seismic cycle started in 1992, the expert said. "Bearing in mind the statistics the cycle could end by 2002," Solomis said.

    In February 1995, two people were killed in an earthquake measuring 5.7 on the Richter scale, when the roof of their home came crashing down on them in Miliou, Paphos.

    Other jolts in recent times -- the highest recorded being a quake in October 1996 which measured 6.3 on the Richter scale -- have caused little damage and no loss of life.

    Reaction to yesterday's quake was varied.

    Panic was the commonest response. "For about two or three minutes everything in the house was moving. A great noise could be heard and people rushed out into the streets shouting in panic," said Christodoulos Papachristou, mukhtar of Psematismenos in the Larnaca district.

    Confusion was a common response for those still asleep when the tremor occurred.

    "My bed was just rocking, like someone was pushing it around the room. I was half asleep and I shouted 'stop it' because I thought it was my kids messing about and when I looked round there was nobody there," one Larnaca resident said.

    Others were more blasť. "We were shaken, not stirred," said a spokesman for the British bases -- where no damage was reported.

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    Thursday, August 12, 1999

    [02] Eclipse? More like a hazy summer afternoon...

    By Anthony O. Miller

    THE DAY began with a bang, or at least a rattle, as two earthquakes and several aftershocks shook most of Cyprus awake. The tremors augured well for the day of the last solar eclipse of the millennium.

    But if yesterday's partial solar eclipse filled any Cyprus hearts with wonder, it was more the wonder at all the pre-eclipse hype, than anything that happened in the heavens.

    For weeks, now, the air had been thick with anticipation of the great event, and official warnings against staring at the eclipse without special glasses, lest blindness result.

    Yesterday's event was slated to begin at 1.07pm, last until 3.59pm, and blanket the island in its maximum darkness for 2.5 minutes, beginning at 2.35pm.

    Right on time, the moon began passing across the face of the sun, casting a shadow along a curved swath of earth that started somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and would end somewhere in the Bay of Bengal.

    Places like the southwest of Britain as well as parts of Turkey, Iraq, Iran and India were pegged to get the full effect both in the sky and on the ground.

    Above Cyprus, the eclipse was to be 86 per cent total, meaning that at its peak, 14 per cent of the sun would not be blocked out by the moon.

    But that was a fighting 14 per cent. For none of the day-turned-to-night blackness that many had expected was seen in Cyprus during yesterday's solar-lunar conjunction.

    None of several birds in an outdoor cage showed any signs of stress, aberrant behaviour or awareness that anything different from the ordinary was happening in the skies above. They just hopped and fluttered as usual.

    No shadows blurred to indistinction under the moon's shadow as the event reached its peak. No animals ran wildly in the streets, or howled, meowed or roared in frenzy as the sun "disappeared" behind the moon.

    Truth be told, were it not for a bit of assiduous watch-watching, those in Cyprus who lacked the special sun-watching glasses to track the eclipse, might not have known anything special was happening above them in the sky.

    The 14 per cent of the sun not covered by the moon cast just about the same amount of light onto the island as the sun normally does on a hazy, humid Cyprus afternoon -- just the kind of day the Meteorological Service said yesterday would be.

    "Of course," said Ioannis Fakas, President of the Cyprus Astronomical Society. The kind of darkness many expected to bathe the island during the eclipse happens "only in a total eclipse."

    "This 14 per cent of the sun's light," that still shone down on Cyprus "is much more (light) than at dusk. You can read a newspaper in it, because this 14 per cent of the sun's light is too much brightness to darken the skies."

    "At 2.30," he said, "it was too light to be as dark as the night, but too dark to have been a normal day." It was impossible to argue with that.

    As to animals driven wild by the event, Fakas admitted there may not have been any of this to report, "but at 2.30 (near the peak of the eclipse), I went up to the roof and several persons there noticed there were no birds flying around."

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    Thursday, August 12, 1999

    [03] Church 'outrage' at Archbishop's share handout

    By Charlie Charalambous

    ARCHBISHOP Chrysostomos is embroiled in an unholy row concerning the Louis Cruise Line share issue after he reportedly sold stocks from the Church's quota to select friends.

    Louis is said to have "accommodated" the Archbishopric's demand for nearly 200,000 shares in the private placement scheme, but Chrysostomos is then charged with selling them on to eight of his relatives and associates.

    Critics nicknamed his inner circle of influential friends as the "G-8", reflecting the power they wield in religious, social and political circles.

    The Archbishop acquired 187,500 private placement shares at 40 cents each (they now have a total market value of £560.625), and then sold them on to his chosen few -- before they hit the stock market -- at 50 cents each, yesterday's Simerinialleged.

    If this is true, the Archbishop made 10 cents on every share, bringing in nearly £20,000 for the church.

    But this was all before the much vaunted LCL floatation on the stock market, where Louis shares hit £3.50 on the opening day of trading on August 2, ensuring that the 'G-8' made a much bigger potential windfall.

    If those who reportedly received the shares were to sell them when the market reopens on Monday, they could expect profits of around £70,000 each, according to last Friday's closing price of £2.99.

    Members of the Holy Synod, clerics and staff at the Archbishopric are said to be "outraged" by the affair and "disgusted" that the Church encouraged such profiteering.

    Others are reportedly furious that they were left on the sidelines in the selective share handouts scheme.

    A letter from Archbishopric staff to Chrysostomos -- published in Simerini-- said: "eight individuals had taken advantage of the Louis Cruise Lines share issue and exercised the church's right for their own gain."

    It is also understood that an emergency meeting of the Holy Synod has been requested to discuss why only a privileged few enjoyed Louis shares, profits from which should have been ploughed back into the church.

    On Tuesday, LCL attempted to call a truce over the furore caused by media leaks that political parties and the Cyprus Orthodox Church had enjoyed a free-for-all in the £22.6 million private placement offer.

    "We want to stress once more that the company did not offer any gifts or favours to any political party or person... the entire procedure was completely transparent and legal," said Tuesday's Louis statement.

    Despite the argument that no law or guideline was breached during the share frenzy, the ethics of politicians and the clergy immersing themselves in "naked capitalism" have been the topic of public debate all week.

    Stock market fever has over recent weeks reached such a pitch that market capitalisation, which hit £3.8 billion last week (from £1.2 billion in August 1998), is now roughly equivalent to 80 per cent of the island's Gross Domestic Product.

    The list of private placement LCL buyers included semi-government organisations, commercial banks, Louis employees and travel agents. All gave a pledge not to sell the stocks for one year.

    The shares and warrants dumped by the company's top two executives -- sparking serious jitters among investors -- on the first day of trading were not from the private placement, a Louis source told the Cyprus Mail.

    There are now 22,000 shareholders in Louis following the issue of over 46 million shares in the private placement and Initial Public Offering.

    The stock exchange has closed for a week under the sheer weight of volume, which has seen the All Share Index increase by 221 per cent since January.

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    Thursday, August 12, 1999

    [04] Christofias doing well after kidney transplant

    AKEL Secretary general Demetris Christofias was said to be making a good recovery yesterday following a kidney transplant in London.

    During the day, all the island's political parties issued statements wishing a speedy recovery to the communist party leader.

    Christofias and his sister Despina, who donated her kidney for the transplant, were admitted to London's St. Mary's hospital on Tuesday afternoon.

    Christofias was accompanied to the UK by his wife Elsi, his personal physician cardiologist Dr Michaelis Minas and kidney expert Dr Alkis Pierides.

    Both doctors travelled on their own expenses.

    Christofias, 52, underwent a successful open heart operation in March in preparation for the transplant, again at St. Mary's hospital.

    The transplant was deemed necessary after Christofias suffered kidney damage during treatment for bronchial pneumonia.

    He spent a month in hospital in Cyprus over December 1998 and January this year after being diagnosed with pneumonia.

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    Thursday, August 12, 1999

    [05] Police to step traffic patrols for holiday weekend

    TRAFFIC offenders beware: the police will be especially alert for the August 15 weekend starting tomorrow.

    An announcement issued yesterday said the extra safety measures would be taken because of the expected rise in traffic flow over those days.

    Measures include extra police patrols and traffic monitoring, with emphasis on preventing traffic violations such as speeding, dangerous overtaking, not using safety belts and helmets and driving under the influence of alcohol.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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