Limassol wildfire finally under control

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The massive Limassol wildfire was brought under control on Monday, with authorities informing evacuees that they could return home, as the fire was stopped just metres away from the village of Apsiou.

No loss of human lives has been reported, with only one property found to have been burned down.

The Agriculture Ministry said the area was surveyed and assessed via a helicopter.

The ministry’s fire-response coordinator Andreas Gregoriou was on board the fire service chief and the forestry department head.

Gregoriou said the key to bringing it under control was the lack of wind, overnight efforts to contain and secure the blaze, and early morning airdrops.

Evacuees from two villages who had been removed from their homes as a precaution on Sunday and stayed at a nearby community centre have returned.

Justice Minister Anna Prokopiou-Koukkidou also confirmed the fire was brought under control on Monday but said conditions may change.

“All forces of the Cypriot government are on alert,” Koukkidou posted on social media.

“The operational plan, using aircraft from Cyprus and abroad, is constantly being adjusted according to the conditions. Strong winds are expected in the afternoon,” she added.

The fire in Alassa reignited on Sunday, triggering a huge emergency response to the largest wildfire this year – destroying an estimated 7.5-10 square kilometres of vegetation.

The firefront encompassed the villages of Paramytha, Apaisia, Apsiou, and Fasoula.

Cyprus activated the bloc’s civil protection mechanism by calling for assistance from regional countries, including Jordan.

Authorities said two more aircraft were expected from Greece, while Jordan had already sent three helicopters to tackle the fire on Sunday.

They joined nine other aircraft, hundreds of firefighters, and volunteers, battling the flames to protect residential areas.

Two Canadair firefighting aircraft from Greece will also bring retardant fluid to help in the final extinguishing efforts.

Residents of the Apsiou and Apesia communities bravely stayed put, defying evacuation orders, and joined forces with the Forestry Department and Fire Department to battle the flames.

The cause of the fire has yet to be confirmed.

Cyprus’ wildfire risk is at its highest, following above-average scorching summer temperatures creating tinder-dry conditions.

July was the hottest month ever recorded in Cyprus, with the longest heatwave lasting 17 days with temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius plus.

Memories from the most devastating fire the island has seen are still fresh.

The huge blaze on July 3, 2021 – which started in the Limassol village of Arakapas – burnt over 55 square km of forest land, homes, and properties.

It also claimed the lives of four farm workers from Egypt.