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09 December, 2021
 
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Cyprus police retrace steps in deadly fire

Investigators try to establish timeline by piecing phone data back together and comparing witness accounts

Newsroom

Cypriot authorities officially confirmed the identifies of four Egyptian workers who died in a devastating wildfire last weekend, with police saying investigators are trying to piece back together any communications the victims might have had prior to their demise.

According to police spokesperson Christos Andreou, Cypriot authorities have confirmed the identities of four people whose charred remains were discovered in the aftermath of a wildfire in the Republic of Cyprus.

Andreou, who spoke on state radio Friday morning, said Egyptian authorities obtained DNA samples from the relatives of Maged Nabil Younan Ragheb, aged 23, Marzouk Shohdy Marzouk Attia, aged 39, Ezzat Salama Youssef Salama, aged 36, and 22-year-old Samwiel Milad Farouk Elyas.

The samples were received by law enforcement officials, who transferred them to a state lab where there was a match in each of the four cases.

Their boss said he had phone contact with the workers, with police seeking to establish a timeline after reports suggested the brother of one of the victims also spoke with them

According to the spokesperson, investigators also visited the death scene outside Odou village, Larnaca district, where reenactments took place to account for possible scenarios as to how the final moments of the four workers unfolded in their desperate attempt to escape the inferno.

Investigations into the men’s final moments also include piecing back together any telephone communications they may have had with others immediately before and during their attempt to escape the fire.

Local media said their boss had phone contact with at least one of the victims, but many unknowns remained over the timeline during the critical events.

Additional reports suggested the brother of one of the victims may also have had communications with the workers, with police saying statements and phone data from anyone in contact with them would be reviewed for the purpose of comparison as well as to establish a timeline.

It remains unclear as to why the workers were late in reaching a safe area before being engulfed in flames, with possible scenarios in the media including delayed or unclear communications, panic, automotive failure, road obstructions, as well as initially being told to fill a tank with water to help put out fires down in the village.

Over 200 foreign workers in the area managed to escape the flames by walking to safe areas, with pro-migrant KISA group accusing authorities and farmland bosses of carrying out evacuations for locals while leaving laborers behind to fend for themselves.

Officials say authorities carried out a coordinated effort but the fire was much bigger and moved a lot faster than expected, as strong winds in some areas fanned the flames.

Police said investigators were focusing on different pieces of evidence in order to ascertain whether there are any signs of criminal offenses.

The government has said it would compensate the families of the victims, while the bodies are expected to be repatriated to Egypt on the weekend.

KISA has accused authorities and employers of “criminal negligence” over a decision to evacuate the community while “leaving foreign workers to their fate in the inferno.”

The NGO has also called on authorities not to repatriate the bodies before an independent forensic examiner from abroad could be invited to examine the remains and establish the exact time of death.

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