A United Nations bomb disposal expert died today in an accidental explosion while clearing landmines in Cyprus’ buffer zone separating the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides of the Mediterranean island.
Femisberto Novele, from Mozambique, was killed in a minefield south east of the UN protected area of Nicosia, the first demining accident in the country in five years, according to the UN peacekeeping mission in Cyprus (UNFICYP).
Mr. Novele was a member of the UN Mine Action Centre Cyprus (MACC) which was formed in November 2004 to clear the 180 kilometre-long buffer zone, covering around three per cent of the surface area of the divided island.
In a message conveying his condolences to Mr. Novele’s family on behalf of the UN team in country, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Cyprus Taye-Brook Zerihoun said he was saddened and shocked to learn of the accident.
Mr. Zerihoun, who also heads UNFICYP, added that Mr. Novele’s death was a tragic reminder of the dangers landmines still pose in the country.
Since 2004, the MACC team has removed and destroyed more than 14,000 mines, and cleared a total of 57 minefields to date, covering more than 6.5 million square metres of land.
Cyprus’ minefields were laid during an outbreak of violence in 1974, and current records show a total of 101 mined, suspected and booby-trapped areas.