NEWS

Five conscripts die raising flag

Five young conscripts were electrocuted yesterday morning at a small military outpost on the Turkish border while hoisting a metal flagpole that became caught in an overhead electricity line. An army statement said the accident occurred at 8.45 a.m. near the village of Kornofolia, 3 kilometers from the border town of Soufli and 920 kilometers (570 miles) northeast of Athens. The five national servicemen – one of whom had been due for discharge next month – were killed instantly when the pole, which had been knocked down by high winds, touched the Public Power Corporation (PPC) cable. «We mourn the sad loss of our young men who fell in the line of duty trying to raise our flag,» Deputy Defense Minister Yiannis Lambropoulos said. Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos ordered an investigation and said the accident serves as «a tragic confirmation of the need for immediate reforms in the armed forces, based on a new way of thinking that focuses on servicemen as human beings.» President Costis Stephanopoulos, Premier Costas Karamanlis and opposition parties expressed sorrow, while two days of mourning were declared in the armed forces. The head of the joint chiefs of staff and the army chief both visited the outpost. The victims, all from northern Greece, were identified as Sgt Haralambos Dimitriadis, 26; Cpl Nikolaos Theodoroudis, 28, and privates Antonios Hadzirodias, Giorgos Chrysafidis and Angelos Tsipis, all 20. The outpost lies 500 meters from the Evros River, which serves as the border between Greece and Turkey in Thrace. PPC said the 20-kilovolt line stands 8.4 meters above ground level at that point, while the minimum overhead safety distance is 6 meters. The flagpole was on a 1.8-meter-high mound.