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18 July, 2024
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Fire rages out of control, illegal garbage dump possible cause (pics)

Strong winds and rugged terrain hamper firefighting efforts; International assistance en route


A fire that broke out around 12:39 on Tuesday afternoon between the communities of Psathi and Polemi in Paphos is still raging out of control, and has spread to the communities of Kourtaka, Lemona, and Choulou due to rugged terrain and strong winds. The communities of Psathi, Polemi, and Choulou have already been evacuated. "There are several active fronts, and we are trying to establish firebreaks. Ground forces will be operating during the night to contain the fire," said Fire Service Spokesman Andreas Kettis.

Due to the critical nature of the fire, the National Fire Plan was activated and the relevant Ministerial Committee was mobilized, including the Ministers of Justice, Agriculture, and Defence, as well as Fire Chief Nikos Longinos, Chief of Police Stelios Papatheodorou, and Forestry Department Director Savvas Iezekiel. Efforts are being made to strengthen firefighting efforts with aerial support from abroad. Two Australian air tractors are preparing to enter the battle, and the assistance of two Jordanian helicopters has been requested. Greece is sending two Canadair CL-415 aircraft following a request for assistance through the European Civil Protection Mechanism, all set to arrive on Wednesday morning.

President Nicos Christodoulides arrived at the Crisis Management Centre in Larnaca around 7:30 PM after returning from Jordan, where he attended a meeting on Gaza. He was briefed by the Ministers of Defence, Justice, and Agriculture on the fire's status and the firefighting efforts. The Police have recalled personnel, while missing persons from a livestock shelter in the area have contacted authorities and have informed them that they are in good health.

The fire, which ignited in dry grasses, low wild vegetation, and trees, has wreaked considerable havoc. "While the threat to human lives has been mitigated, the fire has swept through the village of Psathi and is now advancing towards Lemona, leaving a trail of damage and destruction," Paphos Prefect George Chrysafinis told CNA. Mr. Chrysafinis added that the Provincial Administration is in contact with relevant agencies and assisting with canvases and tankers, although the extent of the damage, including the number of houses burned, is not yet known.

According to Andreas Kettis, there are reports of extensive damage to several houses. While many residences have been protected, a large front is developing to the east. The fire is raging in a very difficult area, with ground forces being reinforced by the entire State apparatus and organized volunteer groups. Six fire engines from Paphos city and district, along with three engines from the Forestry Department and a portable firefighting unit (FPM) from the Thera Service, are responding to the fire.

Roads are closed due to the fire, with the Police announcing that the road from Lemonari to Polemi and the road from Agios Demetrianos to Psathi are closed, and traffic is being diverted through side roads.

The cause of the fire has been linked to illegal garbage dumps, a persistent issue in the area. Kathimerini's Pavlos Neophytou reported in August 2023 about the illegal dump sites around Paphos and questioned the Environmental Department about their response. The department's dismissive reply, "well, what can we do?" has drawn criticism in light of the current disaster.

President Christodoulides mentioned, "I have spoken with the Minister of Interior; the recording of the damage has begun. I have spoken with the mayors of the affected villages. The situation is still not yet under control, and efforts are being intensified. We have asked for help, and tomorrow morning the aircraft from Greece and Jordan will be in Cyprus. Tonight, there will be teams on standby in all the communities. In some communities, citizens will not return to their homes and will be transferred to hotels."

See the pictures and video below:

The fire as seen from Kato Paphos / Source: ΚΑΙΡΟΦΙΛΟΙ ΚΥΠΡΟΥ

Cyprus  |  wildfires  |  paphos

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