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16 June, 2024
 
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Cyprus faces early wildfire scare amid resource shortage

April blazes spark concerns over firefighting readiness and safety measures

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According to Kathimerini reporter Ioanna Kyriakou, this April has brought a sense of deja vu to Cyprus, reminiscent of June and early summer. A massive fire erupted on Wednesday morning in the Parekklisia state forest in Limassol district, sparking a 24-hour battle before it was finally brought under control. This incident, coupled with statements from the Agriculture Minister highlighting the lack of sufficient flying resources until June, has fueled anxiety about the upcoming summer season. Questions loom over the state's preparedness, especially as fires break out earlier and last longer due to climate change and soaring temperatures.

The fire in Parekklisia was reportedly caused by a flare used during the destruction of flares and smoke bombs by the Mines and Quarries Department, without obtaining permission from the Forestry Department. Another fire broke out the same day in the Potami area of Paphos district due to fireworks set off by a licensed operator at a hotel.

Flying equipment remains scarce, with only one first-response aircraft owned by the Forestry Department and supported by secondary assets from the Police, National Guard, and British Bases. Efforts to secure additional aircraft and helicopters are underway, but they are not expected before June. Despite plans to purchase firefighting vehicles and bolster ground forces, concerns persist about the state's ability to combat wildfires effectively.

Charalambos Alexandrou, former Director of the Forestry Department, emphasized the worsening fire situation and the need to address longstanding deficiencies in fire prevention and management. He highlighted ongoing efforts to strengthen personnel, infrastructure, and vegetation management.

The Agriculture Minister ordered an administrative investigation into the Limassol forest fire and is considering suspending the Director of the Mines and Quarries Service. Licenses for fireworks have been revoked following the fire incidents, with strict prohibitions on their use nationwide.

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Cyprus  |  fire  |  summer

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