Anger and tears as victims are buried

By Poly Pantelides Published on July 14, 2011
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The funeral of navy commander, Captain Andreas Ioannides (photo: Christos Theodorides)
Today's funeral of twins Miltos and Christos Christoforou (photo: Christos Theodorides)
Today's funeral of twins Miltos and Christos Christoforou (photo: Christos Theodorides)

The funerals of 19 year old twin victims of monday's naval base explosion, Miltos and Christos Christoforou are underway in Limassol.

Yesterday, thousands of grieving and angry people attended the separate funerals of eight officers, sailors and firemen who were killed in Monday's massive blast at the Evangelos Florakis naval base near Mari.

The funerals took place in the Larnaca and Limassol districts. Captain Andreas Ioannides Commander of the Navy (National Guard General Staff) was laid to rest in Limassol, hailed as a hero by those who delivered his eulogy.

In Larnaca, Commander Lambros Lambrou, the Commander of the Naval Base was buried amid tears and fury when government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou laid a wreath on behalf of President Demetris Christofias who hasn’t surfaced since visiting the site of the blast on Monday.

At all eight funerals the atmosphere was heavy with blame, grief, and the shadow of  questions that have not yet been answered. Of the 12 people who perished, six were navy personnel and six were firemen.

The family of chief fireman Yiorgos Yiakoumi asked that no government representatives attend the funeral and also eschewed wreaths. Party representatives and police chief, Michalis Papageorgiou, did attend.

“The state killed my son,” Yiakoumi’s bereaved mother cried in front of his coffin.

Her anger was evident but her question went unanswered: “On aerosol cans it says not to expose them to the sun then why did they leave whole explosives (exposed)?” she said.

At the funeral of the naval base commander, Lambrou, 45, one mourner shouted: "You (should all) resign", at the government spokesman.

Former National Guard chief Petros Tsalikidis who quit, along with Defence Minister Costas Papacostas only  hours after the blast offered his condolences to the family but clearly devastated, left the church hurriedly.

Friends of the deceased told reporters that they were angry and wanted justice.

The wife and mother of fireman Adamos Adamou, 35, huddled together throughout the funeral, his mum crying:  “I want my son.”

Mother and wife kept touching Adamou's coffin, the closest they could now get to him.

Relatives of fireman Vassilis Krokos, 29, also clung to each other in tears as they were entering the church.

Fire fighters with the emergency unit EMAK set up a guard of honour as the coffin was carried into the church. Many others, police and fire fighters, kept to themselves or occasionally talked to each other in low voices.

Most donated money to support buying equipment for Larnaca General Hospital.

Vassilis' father, Andreas Krokos, the police's deputy chief of operations spoke in between his tears, pausing often collect himself.

“Your death has devastated our souls just like the munitions destroyed your body,” Krokos said of his son.

Vassilis had initially joined the police force in 2004. But his father talked of how he was not satisfied with merely handing out traffic tickets, and out of an urge to help people more, decided to join the fire brigade despite his mother’s resistance.

He had married three years ago to Marilena and the couple had a daughter, Despina, who is nine and a half months old.

“At Sunday lunch we all met and when you left to work in the afternoon to go to work, which was unfortunately your last shift, you did it in secrecy from your daughter so she wouldn't start crying,” his father said.

He went on to relay the last message Vassilis sent his wife. It had to do with their family life and his ongoing project to finish the construction of a balcony at home.

“Once I’m done with the balcony, baby, I’ll have more time to enjoy (both of) you,” he told his wife in a text on Sunday evening.

Buried yesterday at the government’s expense were:

Warrant Officer Kleanthis Kleanthous, 51, Non Commissioned Officer in the Naval Command. He leaves behind two children

Captain Andreas Ioannides, 53, Commander of the Navy (National Guard General Staff). He leaves behind three children.

Commander Lambros Lambrou, 45. Commander of the Naval Base. He leaves behind two children.

Fireman 74 Vassilis Krokos, 29. He leaves behind one child.

Fireman 2446 Spyros Ttantis, 38. He leaves behind one child.

Fireman 3520 Panayiotis Theofilou, 30.

Chief fireman 3311 Yiorgos Yiakoumi, 30. He leaves behind his wife.

Fireman 4829 Adamos Adamou, 35. He leaves behind two children.