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Cyprus report Cyprus report
by Euro Reporter
2009-11-10 10:30:20
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A shock in Larnaca School

Deputies on the House Education Committee have been left in shock after finding syringes and rubbish scattered around a Larnaca School. Dianellio Gymnasium in Larnaca was one of many visited by the parliamentary delegation, as part of its tour of the island’s schools. Pupils were found taking their midday break just metres away from used syringes and buildings with shattered windows, on the verge of collapse.

The District Inspector for Higher Education in Larnaca, Andreas Ioannides, as well as the school’s headmistress, came under attack for allowing the situation to progress as such; especially after being blamed for not informing the Education Ministry by Minister Andreas Demetriou himself. But Ioannides maintained that the debris and wrecked buildings were in a separate part of the school from where pupils are being taught. He added that new establishments were currently being built, which would be ready in 18 months time.

But MPs called for immediate action, suggesting the Education Minister visits the school personally; to see the serious problems with his own eyes and make some drastic changes. Education Committee Chairman Nicos Tornaritis of DISY said he was deeply shocked by what he had seen. “Time has stood still here,” he told reporters. He said entering Dianellio; he was excited about visiting such a historical school. The school was initially created by a local benefactor, acting as an orphanage and a professional academy before becoming a gymnasium. “However, the images we were faced with were unacceptable,” said Tornaritis. “Everyone is talking about humane schools, but what we have seen here is inhumane; how is it possible for pupils and teachers to co-exist with an environment filled with drug syringes, rubbish, broken gates and broken buildings?”


Story of tears and terror

FROM terrifying hijacks to pitched gun battles on the runway, Larnaca airport has witnessed a series of dramatic events in its eventful 34-year history. The airport, which was improvised after the 1974 Turkish invasion left Nicosia airport marooned in the buffer zone, became an international airport in name only. Until recently its buildings still had a prefabricated, scruffy ‘thrown together’ appearance. The gnawing hope, which left Larnaca waiting for so many years for a proper terminal, remained that the old international airport would be returned.

But while it may not have had the sleekness of an international airport, it was to be the backdrop to several major world events The most notorious incident, which ruptured relations between Cyprus and Egypt, occurred on February 19, 1978 when 15 Egyptian commandos were killed in a late-night gun battle with National Guard soldiers outside the main terminal. The crisis had begun the previous day, when Youssef Sebai, editor of the daily Al Ahram newspaper and friend of Egyptian President Sadat, was shot dead at the Nicosia Hilton hotel by two gunmen.

Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) members then hijacked a Cyprus Airways DC-8 plane taking several Egyptian hostages. They forced the plane to approach several countries including Libya, Syria and Djibouti, but each time their request to land was refused, so the plane was forced to return to Larnaca. Egypt then dispatched its entire antiterrorist squad aboard a C-130 Hercules to deal with the hijacking; however, doing so without the consent of the government in Nicosia. On landing in Larnaca the commandos launched an all-out assault on the DC-8, even as Cypriot negotiators had secured the hostage-takers' surrender. President Spyros Kyprianou and other senior officials observing the events on site were forced to retreat from the airport control tower after it was hit by a shower of bullets. The crisis ended after the National Guard overpowered the Egyptian commandos. Fifteen of the 58 Egyptians who had flown into Cyprus' Larnaca airport aboard a C-130E military transport died in the swirling 50-minute airport gun battle. Their $6 million plane went up in flames. The incident caused frosty diplomatic relations between Cairo and Nicosia, which persisted into the 1980s.

There was more bloodshed a decade later when on the April 5, 1988; a Kuwait Airways Boeing 747 was hijacked, while en route from Thailand to Kuwait. After forcing the plane to fly to Iran, the hijackers forced the crew to fly the plane back east to Algeria, but the plane landed in Larnaca for refuelling. Two Kuwaiti hostages were executed by the hijackers and their bodies were thrown out on to the Larnaca runway. The hijacking ended in Algeria 15 days later. On a lighter note, in 1983 a six pound baby girl became a star feature in the Cyprus news, when she was delivered by a stewardess on a British Airways flight from Sydney to London. Jennifer Gibb, aged 24, who was 29 weeks pregnant, suddenly went into labour as the plane was approaching the Mediterranean, at 35,000 feet and the baby was delivered, by Rita Ellis, a stewardess and former midwife. The pilot, Captain Trevor Cooper, radioed Larnaca Airport for permission to land as soon as Gibb's labour started. Mother and baby were in rushed to hospital in Larnaca, where both were described as being in ‘excellent condition’.

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