Planes over divided Cyprus were fighting another day to put out the Kantara wildfire previously thought to have been under control, with reports overnight saying Turkish Cypriot authorities were evacuating local communities as the flames were spreading westwards.
Fire intensified overnight in the northern part of Cyprus near Kantara, where two planes and one helicopter from the south joined aircraft from the United Nations and Turkey in an effort to contain a wildfire that started on Tuesday.
The fire started Tuesday around noon when a plane from Turkey that ought to have been stationed on the island was in fact on the mainland for service
Turkish Cypriot authorities requested help from Greek Cypriots in the Republic of Cyprus, after it emerged that the fire started Tuesday around noon when a plane from Turkey that ought to have been stationed on the island was in fact on the mainland for service.
Greek Cypriot Forestry Department director Charalambos Alexandrou told state radio in the south on Thursday that the morning hours “are absolutely crucial” in the operation, saying if the fire was not contained then the situation could get out of control on a much larger scale.
Planes from Israel were also called on Wednesday night to take part in the operation after authorities in the north said land-based fire fighting was not sufficient.
Reports said Turkish Cypriot authorities had also asked for Israeli support, with Alexandrou adding that the request was being handled through official channels in coordination with Republic officials in the south.
It was later announced that two planes from Israel would first need to land at Larnaca International Airport before joining the operation in the north.
Additional media reports confirmed information that there were delays in the response to the wildfire, which started Tuesday around noon.
The forestry department in the south had warned members of the public on Tuesday, the longest day of summer, fearing near gale winds could make the work of fire fighters very difficult.
Officials in the north said up to seven villages at risk were being evacuated, mainly elderly population, even in areas where there was no fire in order to avoid traffic jams in the broader region.
Areas affected by the fire included Mersinlik/Phlamoudhi, Ardanan, and Yeni Iskele/Trikomo.
Two persons in the north have been detained on arson charges.