Villages evacuated due to forest fires in Cyprus
A huge fire raged out of control on Saturday evening after destroying homes and large areas of pine forest, forcing authorities to evacuate communities in Limassol, where it started, and Larnaca. Homes and other property and large large areas of pine forest and other vegetation were destroyed in just a few hours, as authorities raced to save lives in communities in the path of the fire.
Fanned by strong winds, the fire burned homes in Arakapas, which had been evacuated earlier, and raced through the village, swiftly jumping district boundaries into Larnaca. Authorities have evacuated several villages in the area, with the flames affecting some 10 communities including Melini, Ora, Odou, Sykopetra, and Eptagonia, Ayioi Vavatsinias, and Vavatsinia.
Cyprus has appealed for international help to tackle a huge wildfire described by officials as the worst in the country’s history. The Cypriot authorities requested assistance from the European Union and Israel after the wildfire, which was reported at about midday on Saturday. Firefighters are now racing to prevent the blaze from crossing a mountainous region and ripping through the Machairas Forest.
Israel plans to send two planes from its Fire and Rescue Service to help Cyprus to fight the forest fire raging north of the cities of Limassol and Larnaca. Based on the mutual cooperation agreement between the two countries, Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev and the Fire Commissioner Dedy Simhi discussed ways they could help Cyprus. Greece also pledged to assist with two aircraft and Cyprus also asked the European Union, of which it is a member, for help.
The EU’s executive, the European Commission, said fire-fighting planes had departed from Greece to battle the fire and Italy was also planning to deploy aerial fire-fighters. The EU’s emergency Copernicus satellite was also activated to provide damage assessment maps of the affected areas, the Commission said in a statement.
The cause of the fire, which started around midday, was unclear. Cyprus has experienced a heatwave this week, with temperatures exceeding 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). Police said they were questioning a 67 year old person in connection with the blaze.