Towns across the Republic of Cyprus were overrun with anarchists on Holy Saturday, when street fires and loud explosions dominated urban areas late into the night amid pandemic lockdown and midnight mass.
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Fire fighters and law enforcement officers responded to dozens of incidents on Holy Saturday, with media reports saying gangs of local youths made use of fireworks in many towns causing mayhem in built-up areas.
Loud bangs from firecrackers including illegal fires were reported in many districts, including Limassol where dozens of young people threw gasoline bombs against a patrol car that went up in flames. A video showed the vehicle in the middle of the street in the Ayios Nicolaos borough, fully engulfed in flames.
Minor explosion sounds coming from the burning vehicle could also be heard along with church bells, as churchgoers were wishing “Christ is risen” some 100 meters away. Reports said the two officers inside the patrol car managed to escape unharmed.
Earlier reports said there were fires in suburban areas south of Nicosia, including a huge blaze in Latchia on Saturday afternoon.
Police shut down a roundabout outside Nicosia General Hospital as fire fighters attended to the fire. Earlier two other fires were reported in the area, including one near a rehabilitation center that burned seven hectares of wild vegetation and another one in nearby Nisou.
In Larnaca there were reports of civil commotion outside a Greek Orthodox church in Faneromeni, where youths were purported to have set a field on fire in the downtown area.
Reports of illegal fires in the middle of streets have also been reported during Holy Week, after authorities renewed a ban on the local custom of lambradjia bonfires outside churches citing the pandemic but also safety concerns.
Two days ago, four youths were arrested in Limassol including one who was caught red handed engaging in activities involving illegal fires and using fireworks without permission.
Concerned citizens have been reporting loud explosions in their neighbourhoods, with police saying their primary focus was to disrupt the supply of illegal fireworks
Reports said angry youths with some having their faces covered started a fire in the middle of an intersection where later a patrol car responding to the incident was pelted with rocks.
Law enforcement officials said they have been receiving dozens of complaints over illegal fireworks in residential areas. Concerned citizens over the last few days have called to report loud explosions in their neighbourhoods, with police saying their primary focus was to disrupt the supply of illegal fireworks.
Police spokesperson Christos Andreou told media it is difficult to locate those who use fireworks in such cases, adding authorities instead “are analyzing and evaluating reports from citizens and proceed with searches when we have concrete evidence.”
Churchgoers attended mid night mass on Holy Saturday when they received the holy fire, in accordance with local customs and traditions of the Orthodox faith.
Earlier exceptions to pandemic restrictions on churchgoers during the Holy Week were relaxed further, including midnight mass, after Archbishop Chrysostomos protested a government decision that would have limited participants inside all churches to 50.
Special Holy Week relaxations of measures included delaying the start time for night curfew on Holy Saturday and increasing the number of legitimate outings on Easter Sunday.