NEWS

Souda Bay to back Olympic security drive

SOUDA BAY – The sole US military base in Greece is stockpiling emergency medical equipment to dispatch if terrorists strike with biochemical or radiation devices during the Olympics. The rapid response unit at the Souda Bay Naval Base on the southern island of Crete is part of an international network being assembled to help safeguard the August 13-29 Games – the first summer Olympics since the September 11 attacks in 2001. Greek organizers have been forced to look to NATO allies and others to bolster the unprecedented Olympic security for Athens, which already carries a record price tag of more than $750 million and could approach $1 billion if threats increase. Souda Bay – a harbor and airfield – could play a pivotal role in the worst-case scenarios: terrorists unleashing biological or chemical weapons or using a «dirty bomb,» a conventional device spreading radioactive material. «If the commander of the base calls me… to assist the locals in any situation, I would respond,» the base’s fire chief, Bruce Goodwin, told The Associated Press yesterday. Souda Bay is one of four US naval bases in Europe and 10 worldwide that have received training and equipment for emergency response teams to deal with a biochemical or nuclear-related attacks. For the Olympics, the base could have decontamination sites and field hospitals up and running in a few hours, said the base commander, Capt. Stephen B. Sale, from Benton, Texas. «The goal is to reduce the risk and increase the capability to respond,» he said. «If it is an airborne agent then time is critical,» added Goodwin, from Bluffton, Indiana. Greece is putting together a 200-member team for biochemical or other attacks, but Souda Bay also offers significant backup support. Officials at Souda Bay did not disclose if the base will play any direct role in guarding the Olympics, but security is being beefed up ahead of the Games. Part of the Olympic soccer tournament will be played in Crete.