Farmer guilty of sparking Cyprus’ worst fire

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A 69-year-old farmer has been found guilty of causing the largest wildfire ever recorded in Cyprus, burning forest land and claiming the lives of four Egyptian workers.

The Limassol Criminal Court on Wednesday found the man guilty of starting the Arakapas forest fire in July 2021, causing €15.31 mln in damages.

The Criminal Court found the accused guilty of burning scrub and starting the fire “maliciously, recklessly and deliberately”.

The Court said the prosecution presented convincing evidence against the suspect that triggered a huge firefighting operation and mass evacuations.

The farmer, who was 67 at the time, was seen leaving his field moments before the blaze started and rapidly spread because of strong winds and temperatures soaring above 40 degrees Celsius.

The Court ordered that the accused remain in custody until May 31, when he will be sentenced.

Cases tried at a Criminal Court are for prison sentences of a minimum of five years.

Then President Nicos Anastasiades, who visited the area, said the villages in the region saw “unprecedented destruction, beyond even what we saw during the Turkish invasion (in 1974)”.

The devastating fire that started in the Limassol village of Arakapas on July 3, 2021, burnt more than 55 sqm of forest land, homes, and properties.

The blaze claimed the lives of four farm workers from Egypt aged 24 to 35, while more than 80 homes and tens of farms and small businesses were destroyed in eight villages in the rural areas of Limassol and Larnaca.