Huge blaze in north under control

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A devastating three-day blaze in the Turkish occupied north was brought under control Friday with the help of firefighting aircraft from Israel, the Cyprus Republic, and the British bases.

In comments to Turkish Cypriot daily YeniDuzen, the head of the north’s firefighting service Ramadan Gurpinar said that the fire is expected to be completely extinguished in the coming hours.

He added that aerial units would remain in certain areas to deal with possible restarting, as the weather forecast says strong winds are likely.

Firefighting efforts resumed in the early hours of Friday, with helicopters first to the scene, as progress appears to have been made in handling the blaze which first broke out on Tuesday in Kantara, on the eastern part of the Kyrenia mountain range, spreading eastwards.

Turkish Cypriot authorities launched a coordinated operation to evacuate the villages of Flamoudi and Ardana on Thursday.

The fire has destroyed more than 3,000 acres of land, while several villages were at risk.

The residents of the two villages were temporarily housed in hotels in the village of Davlos and do not yet know when they will be able to return to their homes.

There was support from the Israeli and Cyprus governments sending firefighting aircraft to help, following requests from Turkish Cypriot authorities through UNFICYP.

The British Bases have also sent two helicopters to assist in operations.

The Cyprus government sent two firefighting planes and a helicopter to the north to help tackle the wildfire.

Two helicopters from Turkey are also taking part in the operation.

Israeli crews

Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis went to Larnaca airport Friday to thank the crews of the Israeli firefighting planes that helped put out the fire in the north.

He told the Cyprus News Agency: “I wanted to express our gratitude to Israel and the aircraft crews that responded immediately after the call made by the Cypriot Government for help, and they contributed a lot to extinguish the fire in occupied Kantara “.

“According to information, the situation was very difficult, and both the aircraft from Israel and the Republic played a very important role in controlling the fire.”

“We are always ready to contribute whenever our country needs it since our homeland is not limited to the free part of Cyprus.

“The Republic of Cyprus could assist in the efforts to extinguish the fire with ground personnel; however, this was not requested, even though we conveyed this willingness.”

He said Cyprus sent aircraft to Israel last year to help with a wildfire.

Climate action

Meanwhile, the Greek Cypriot head of the bicommunal technical committee for the environment, Michalis Loizides, pointed out that cooperation between the two sides on natural disasters, such as the recent blaze, should be brought up to speed.

In comments to state radio CyBC, Loizides said that despite excellent relations with their Turkish Cypriot counterparts, there are major hurdles.

He said that worsening climate changes and growing environmental hazards make closer cooperation on crisis prevention and management of the utmost importance.

“We cannot allow our Cyprus to become a desert or burn.”

He said the desertification process does not allow Cyprus’ nature to heal as fast as it used to.

“We need to get society involved, those who are not political actors, to proceed with the necessary actions.”

Loizides argued that bicommunal volunteer groups could be set up to bypass political issues.