Aircraft from Britain and Greece join Cyprus firefight

20th June 2016, Comments 0 comments

Aircraft from Britain and Greece have joined Cypriot firefighters in the battle to control some of the worst forest fires to have hit the island in years, officials said Monday.

Israel had already sent aircraft to Cyprus when a fire broke out on Saturday at Argaka in the northwestern tourist region of Paphos, fanned by strong winds and scorchingly high temperatures.

They were still involved in the firefight on Monday along with the British and Greek aircraft deployed at a second site in the foothills of the Troodos mountains some 50 kilometres (31 miles) southwest of Nicosia.

Cypriot Interior Minister Socrates Hasikos told state television 16 aircraft were now being used to douse the "unprecedented" fires, the first time so many have been deployed on the island.

They were supporting more than 300 firefighters and 56 vehicles at the Troodos foothills, where the blaze has already destroyed at least 15 square kilometres (six square miles).

The Cypriot government had requested assistance from Israel and Greece, while British forces on the island are always on standby to help and are doing so with two helicopters.

On Monday, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades told reporters at the scene that "irreparable damage has been done" and described it as a "tragedy for rural communities".

Efforts to control the fires are being hampered by strong winds and tinder dry conditions compounded by a heatwave with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

As a precaution some homes have been evacuated, said police, who suspect a 12-year-old boy started the second fire on Sunday after playing with a lighter.

© 2016 AFP

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