4 killed as worst forest fire in decades buffets Cyprus

Published July 5, 2021
NICOSIA: The carcasses of chicken that died from heat and smoke inhalation near a village on the southern slopes 
of Troodos mountains as a major fire burns on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. The blaze has killed four people so far, destroyed homes and forced evacuation of villages.—AFP
NICOSIA: The carcasses of chicken that died from heat and smoke inhalation near a village on the southern slopes of Troodos mountains as a major fire burns on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. The blaze has killed four people so far, destroyed homes and forced evacuation of villages.—AFP

ARAKAPAS: A huge forest blaze in Cyprus killed four people, destroyed homes and forced evacuations of villages, police said on Sunday, as Greece, Israel and other countries deployed fire-fighting planes to the Mediterranean island.

The Egyptian government said the four dead were agricultural workers from the North African country, while Nicosia vowed in a tweet to “stand by the victims’ families in the face of this tragedy, offering every support”.

Fanned by strong winds, the fire broke out Saturday afternoon and swept through the southern foothills of the Troodos mountains as the country grapples with a blistering heatwave.

“Everything was a nightmare and pure hell here, the village was surrounded by fire,” said Akis Giorgiou, 45, from the hamlet of Arakapas, who had spent a terrifying night there and was relieved on Sunday that his home was spared from the flames.

At least 25 buildings were damaged or destroyed, nine of them in Arakapas, said a local police official.

“It is a tragedy,” President Nicos Anastasiades said about the blaze on Twitter, describing it as “the largest fire since 1974”, the year when the island was divided after Turkey occupied its northern third.

The blaze had caused loss of life and destroyed property and forest lands, Anastasiades said, adding that “the government will provide immediate assistance” to the victims and their families.

More than 50 square kilometres (20 square miles) of forest and farmland had been destroyed.

Thick gnarled trunks of ancient olive trees, emblematic of the holiday island, were reduced to smouldering stumps.

Firefighters brought the main fire under control on Sunday, authorities said, while warning that strengthening winds could yet propel a resurgence.

Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said the four Egyptians’ charred bodies were found outside the village of Odos in Larnaca district.

Their burnt-out vehicle was found at the bottom of a ravine and the four bodies some 600 metres (yards) away. A policeman at the scene said that they appeared to have fled the vehicle on foot but run in the direction of the wind-fanned flames, in a doomed attempt to escape.

In areas where the fire had been tamed, charred tree trunks were visible on hillsides, while grey ash had replaced yellowed scrub as far as the eye could see in non-forested areas.

A 67-year-old farmer was arrested and remanded in custody on suspicion of starting the blaze. He was seen by an eyewitness leaving the village of Arakapas in his car at the same time the fire started there on Saturday, police said.

He could face charges of recklessly causing the deaths of the four Egyptians, police added.

Anastasiades visited a crisis management centre in the village of Vavatsinia, located a few kilometres east of the blaze, on Sunday morning, before heading to areas ravaged by the flames, according to the CNA news agency. He said the blaze appeared largely contained but could resurge.

“The high temperatures and the wind are our biggest dangers,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2021

Opinion

Sub judice rule
18 Sep 2021

Sub judice rule

It is time this objection, sub judice, is laid to rest.
The Black Caps folly
Updated 18 Sep 2021

The Black Caps folly

There is so much wrong — and worrying — about the entire sorry episode of New Zealand backing out of Pakistan tour.
CT NAP revisited
Updated 18 Sep 2021

CT NAP revisited

A policy of appeasement towards extremists has undermined the state’s writ.
Pathways for reform
Updated 17 Sep 2021

Pathways for reform

Even now the government has said they are listening, but they have not said how they are listening.

Editorial

Blinken’s remarks
Updated 18 Sep 2021

Blinken’s remarks

The US establishment cannot scapegoat Pakistan for two decades of bad policy in Afghanistan.
18 Sep 2021

Worrying survey

THE findings of the Labour Force Survey 2018-19 indicate that some important headline trends have already taken or...
18 Sep 2021

Special needs

THE fact that only 3,653 children with special needs, out of some 300,000 in Sindh, are registered with the...
TTP amnesty?
Updated 17 Sep 2021

TTP amnesty?

An amnesty should be for some individuals, not the entire outfit.
17 Sep 2021

Media regulation

THE needless controversy over media regulation may finally be heading for a resolution. In a meeting with ...
17 Sep 2021

Refusing audit

THE continuous resistance put up by several public-sector organisations to submitting their accounts for audit by ...