Four found dead after ‘unprecedented’ forest fire in Cyprus
Search crews have discovered four charred bodies outside a fire-swept mountain village on Cyprus in what a minister called the “most destructive” blaze in the eastern Mediterranean island nation’s history.
The blaze, which began on Saturday afternoon outside the village of Arakapas, spread quickly amid strong winds and forced the evacuation of at least eight mountain villages, destroying homes and scorching 54sq km of pine forest and orchards.
“We are experiencing the most destructive fire since the founding of the Cyprus republic,” Mr Nouris said, adding that 50 homes were damaged so far.
Authorities believe the bodies belong to four Egyptian labourers aged 22 to 29 who had gone missing on Saturday evening. Mr Nouris said he has informed the Egyptian ambassador to Cyprus and arrangements will be made to repatriate the remains.
Heavy smoke covers the sky above the village of Ora in the southern slopes of the Troodos mountains, as a giant fire rages in Cyprus.
Photograph: Andrea Anastasiou/AFP via Getty Images
Odou community chief Menelaos Philippou told state-run Cyprus News agency the four men who worked at a greenhouse that grew tomatoes tried to flee the fire along a mountain road, but their small truck veered off the road and fell down an embankment. They then try to flee on foot but did not make it.
President Nicos Anastasiades called the fire “an unprecedented tragedy” except for the destruction wreaked by a 1974 war that split the island along ethnic lines after Turkey invaded in response to a coup aimed at union with Greece.
Mr Nouris said Greek and Israeli aircraft will join 11 other planes and helicopters in firefighting efforts.
Residents who saw their homes go up in flames vented anger at what they called authorities’ slow response.
Mr Anastasiades, who toured the fire-hit villages, pledged immediate government help to farmers and homeowners who lost crops and property and the families of those who died.
Police said a 67-year-old man faces arson charges. A court ordered that he remain in custody for eight days to assist the investigation into the cause of the fire.
Mr Nouris said firefighting aircraft and ground crews are focusing on two massive fire fronts between the villages of Odou and Vavatsinia.
A Canadair plane flies over the forest fire in the Larnaca mountain region, Cyprus.
Photograph: Katia Christodoulou/EPA
Mr Anastasiades said the blaze is “partially contained” but the flames could intensify again if strong winds resume.
Fire officials said the entire department has been mobilised to fight the fire, including 70 fire engines, seven bulldozers and 10 water tankers.
Many volunteers also rushed to help fire crews.
A pair of helicopters from British military bases in Cyprus have also helped firefighting efforts.
Two Greek Canadair CL-415 aircraft arrived in Cyprus to battle the blaze, along with two Israeli fixed-wing planes. – AP
- ^ Cyprus (www.irishtimes.com)
- ^ Nicos Nouris (www.irishtimes.com)
- ^ Nicos Anastasiades (www.irishtimes.com)
- ^ Turkey (www.irishtimes.com)
- ^ Greece (www.irishtimes.com)
- ^ Nicosia (www.irishtimes.com)
- ^ European Union (www.irishtimes.com)
- ^ Israel (www.irishtimes.com)
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