Cyprus says huge forest fire 'under full control'

AFP , Monday 5 Jul 2021

Four Egyptian labourers died trying to escape the village of Odos.

Cyprus forest fire . AFP
A firefighting aircaft douses the flames in an effort to contain a fire near the Kotsiatis area, on the outskirts of Cyprus' capital Nicosia on July 4, 2021.

The Cyprus Forestry Department said Monday that a deadly wildfire, the island's worst in decades, was now "under full control".

The blaze, fanned by strong winds, broke out Saturday and swept through parts of the Troodos mountain range, leaving four Egyptian labourers dead, before being reined in by water bombing by Greek and Israeli aircraft.

"The fire that broke out on Saturday... came under full control today Monday, July 5, 2021 at 08:00 am (0500 GMT)," the department said in a statement.

It added that firefighters were still deployed en masse around the village of Arakapas to tackle any potential further outbreaks.

The fire, described as the worst since the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960, destroyed 50 homes, damaged power lines and forced the evacuation of 10 villages.

It burned an area of about 55 square kilometres covered with forest vegetation and crops.

Four Egyptian labourers died trying to escape the village of Odos.

AFP reporters saw thick gnarled trunks of ancient olive trees reduced to smouldering stumps and grey ash replacing yellowed scrub as far as the eye could see, as well as several burned out homes in Ora village.

A 67-year-old farmer was arrested and remanded in custody on suspicion of causing the blaze, a charge he denied.

Police said an eyewitness had seen him leaving Arakapas in his car at the same time the fire started there. He could face charges of recklessly causing four deaths.

More than 600 people from the emergency services and the army were involved in tackling the blaze, with a dozen aircraft and 70 fire trucks as well as a reconnaissance drone, the Forestry Department said.

Aircraft from Israel, Greece and the British bases on Cyprus were also deployed to help.

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