A fire that broke out at a tyre recycling plant near Mari created a black cloud of smoke that covered the entire southeastern coast of the island and reached Larnaca town, reminiscent of forest fires that ravaged in the area last summer that killed four farmhands.
Initial reports suggest that Saturday’s blaze started from a malfunction at the recycling plant, but nearby community leaders have complained of an increase of arson and illegal burning of waste, especially industrial material.
The Civil Defence issued a warning to all residents in the area to stay indoors as the fumes were toxic. It said people in nearby villages should shut their doors and windows to prevent the smoke from entering their homes.
The Fire Service said five fire engines were on the scene and employed the use of private trucks from nearby facilities to create barriers and contain the spread of the blaze.
“The exact cause of the fire will be investigated in cooperation with the police,” it said.
The fire started from a mound of abandoned and used tyres between Kalavassos and Mari and close to the Vassiliko cement plant and nearby fuel storage facilities.
Although the risk of spreading has been contained, burning tyres take longer to put out.
Dangerous to health
Mari community leader Maria Georghiou told ANT1 TV news that “it is very sad because the odors and the thick black smoke and the toxins emitted into the atmosphere are very dangerous for the environment and for our health.”
She said that the blaze and the smoke did not reach the stage to call for a full evacuation of the village.
Pantelis Charalambous, Mayor of Tochni, added, “we are witnessing another environmental disaster due to all these toxins that are released into the air. Our area is very crowded and unfortunately no one is listening to us.”
Zygi community leader Georgia Michael noted that the situation in the area is suffocating. At the same time she said that fires from waste materials in the area have become a common phenomenon, with residents in despair.
On July 3 last year, Cypriots experienced the largest-ever wildfire in living memory, which claimed the lives of four farm workers.
The fire, described as the worst since independence in 1960, destroyed nearly 100 homes and businesses, damaged power lines and forced the evacuation of ten villages in the mountainous areas of Limassol and Larnaca.
Four Egyptian farmhands died trying to escape the village of Odos, where they worked on a tomato plantation.
The estimated cost of last summer’s urban fires was €11 mln, while forest fires were €18.6 mln.
As the summer approaches and with a higher fire risk, the Forestry Department and the Fire Service that relied on air support from Italy, Greece and Israel last year, has turned to Spain to secure a pair of firefighting aircraft.
Two Kamov helicopters leased every year from Russia were grounded due to sanctions over the war in Ukraine.