reading time: 6 min.

Paphos Residents Mourn Fire Destruction

Paphos Residents Mourn Fire Destruction

The fire in Paphos that led to the evacuation of five villages was brought under control on early Wednesday afternoon although the risk of flare-ups remain according to fire service spokesman Andreas Kettis.

Publish Date: 12/06/24 14:47
reading time: 6 min.
Paphos Residents Mourn Fire Destruction
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Firefighters successfully managed the last active front in Polemi prompting a temporary release of the aircraft which remain on standby, Kettis wrote on X.

He emphasised that fire suppression and containment teams are still actively working at the site to ensure complete containment of the fire.

A lack of effective preventive strategies has been highlighted by this latest fire which has wreaked personal as well as environmental havoc since Tuesday in the normally lush area of the Ezousa valley.

Authorities have pointed out that dry wild vegetation surrounding homes was a major factor in their endangerment, as well as illegal rubbish dumps, pervasive throughout the island.

Newly elected Paphos district governor Charalambos Pittokopitis, who was at the scene from the start, vowed to establish “green points” throughout the district as well as mobile waste disposal units in rural areas.

For his part, Paphos MP Chrysanthos Savvides pegged the fire-risk on urban flight, and said the problem only faces exacerbation unless serious action is taken to facilitate agricultural endeavours and restore the numbers of permanent residents in such communities.

Authorities were also at the scene recording damage suffered by the mostly ageing residents, who are grieving what has been described by eyewitnesses as “utter devastation”.

Residents of Polemi, Psathi, Lemona, Choulou and Kourtouka were evacuated on Tuesday night.

Distraught residents complained about the limited number of aircraft at the ready on Tuesday, which they claim could have stopped the fire at its source, and accused authorities of a tardy response.

However, chief fire officer Nikos Logginos has contested these sentiments.

Firefighting craft began water drops at 6.30am on Wednesday, although they had been ready since 5.30am, however, fog conditions did not permit their deployment sooner, Logginos said, with residents anxiously watching the skies in anticipation since dawn.

“Everything is black in the village, where there used to be greenery all around now all we see is black,” Psathi community leader Michalis Kyriakou told state broadcaster CyBC.

“Nothing is left, the fire flew like a cyclone through the village and around it,” he said.

Smoke from the blaze was still visible on Wednesday morning as far as Paphos and mountain communities over 15 kms away.

Testimony has been secured from an eyewitness that the fire began in an illegal rubbish dump, Logginos told the CyBC.

At the height of the blaze six aircraft were deployed, said Forestry Department director Savva Iezekil. These were three planes managed by the forestry department -one owned by the ROC and two Australian crafts on lease, a Jordanian helicopter which had been stationed in Cyprus, and the two Canadairs which arrived earlier from Greece.

Around 250 ground forces, 50 service vehicles and eight farm vehicles, supported by aerial means, battled to contain the fire which tore through difficult-to-access areas, necessitating the evacuation of five villages.

Four aircraft, theoretically at the state’s disposal, had not been deployed for safety reasons, Kettis said. This includes two Egyptian MI55’s and two Argentinian craft.

Minister of Justice Marios Hartsiotis speaking late at night on Tuesday from the emergency coordination centre set up in Ayios Dimitrianos said the situation was greatly improved compared to earlier.

As soon as the extreme level of danger was assessed, Logginos activated the national Pyrsos plan which requires the immediate reporting of all competent bodies and ministers to the Zenon Coordination Centre in Larnaca, Logginos said.

This is done so that there can be an absolute coordination, domestically as well as internationally, during the initial crisis stage.

The fire which was sparked in a hard-to-access location around 3km from Polemi was initially spotted by an aerial patrol craft which immediately attempted a limited water drop, but the blaze subsequently tore through the gorge creating a “chimney effect”, the fire chief said.

Three summer houses were completely destroyed, while six other homes suffered damages, as did cultivations and livestock structures.

Electricity has been restored in parts of Psathi and other communities after poles had burned down and wires fallen to the ground and electricity authority crews are working on repairs.

Kettis said although lives had been endangered, no lives were lost. Ten people needed to be cared for at Paphos general hospital for respiratory impacts caused by smoke inhalation and only light injuries have been recorded.


Source: Cyprus Mail 

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