Multinational force fights stubborn wildfire in Cyprus, including Lebanon, Greece and Jordan
August 7, 2023 By Menelaos Hadjicostis, The Associated Press
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — A multinational force is helping Cyprus fight stubborn wildfires in the summer heat, with Israel joining Lebanon, Greece and Jordan in sending aircraft to fight a blaze that has scorched miles of mountainous terrain, officials said Monday.
Israel said two “Air-Tractor” firefighting aircraft, ground crews and wildfire experts along with six tons of flame retardants were on their way to the island nation, adding to the 20 tons of material that Greece is sending.
Lebanon is pitching in with a pair of helicopters, while two Greek Canadair aircraft have been dispatched to help douse the fire in the mountains about 11 miles (17 kilometres) north of the coastal town of Limassol. Jordan has sent three aircraft of its own, including two Super Puma helicopters and a Russian-made Mi26 helicopter.
The multinational effort is battling a blaze that according to Agriculture and Environment Minister Petros Xenophontos scorched around 3.2 square miles (8.5 square kilometres) of land.
Xenophontos said the fire had been largely contained overnight but had rekindled along several areas Monday, forcing air and ground crews to again mobilize. He said crews would remain at the scene for as long as needed to counter any flare-ups.
“Fires are here, climate change exists and unfortunately it won’t go away,” Xenophontos told reporters at a fire coordinating hub near the fire.
Justice Minister Anna Koukkides-Procopiou told reporters late Monday that firefighting aircraft would again operate early Tuesday as a precautionary measure to snuff out any potential pockets of fire because of concerns over rekindling in some areas.
Fire Department spokesman Andreas Kettis had earlier posted on the platform known as X, formerly Twitter, that ground crews were working to hem in the blaze by building firebreaks.
Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou tweeted on X that he has given instructions for an initial estimate of the damage to private and state-owned property.
Officials said the residents of three villages have returned to their homes after being instructed to evacuate as a precaution.
Gregoriou, who surveyed the area by helicopter along with the country’s fire chief, told state broadcaster CyBC that “hundreds” of fire fighters, including volunteers, managed to contain the fire overnight because winds had died down considerably.
The fire started Friday, but authorities said a day later it had been contained.
Xenophontos said the fact that the fire reignited “is something that concerns us” and would be looked at by officials over the next few days. He downplayed suggestions that it may have been the work of arsonists, saying that strong winds were lashing the spot where the fire is believed to have reignited.
Some firefighters who have been on the front lines have been relieved to rest up for any possible fires elsewhere on the island, the minister said.
Associated Press writer Elena Becatoros in Athens, Greece contributed.
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