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Cyprus News Agency: News in English, 07-06-30

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From: The Cyprus News Agency at <>




    The huge fire raging since Friday on Troodos mountain range is now under control, having destroyed vast areas of forest and reduced properties to ashes. People who were evacuated from the area have begun returning to their homes. Meanwhile, as forecast by the Meteorological Service, it has begun to rain in the area.

    President Tassos Papadopoulos said the blaze was a "tragedy" and assured that the government intended to take stock of the damage and assist those who bore the brunt of the destruction.

    He said Lebanon, Israel and Italy provided assistance in efforts to fight the raging flames, pointing out that Greece was trying to tackle its own fires across the country but was willing to send aid if necessary.

    "There are people who have lost equipment, vehicles, tractors, houses and barns. All will be recorded and the Council of Ministers will examine the data," the President said.

    President Papadopoulos noted that forests take many years to develop and that "every forest fire is a tragedy."

    Director of the Forestry Department Aristos Ioannou told CNA that the fire was finally under control and that all services would remain in the area for a few more hours.

    He explained that there was always a possibility of the fire rekindling and "we cannot say for sure that we have finished."

    "We will stay there. No one will leave," he said, adding that "we will stay until tonight and, if by this evening we do not have a rekindling, then we will decide what to do."

    Ioannou pointed out that the fire could rekindle even after a fortnight and will thus be guarded for at least two weeks.

    Replying to questions, Ioannou said all residents have returned to their homes and that the area will be charted in order to evaluate the damage.

    Minister of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment Photis Photiou, who visited the Saittas Crisis Management Centre and the villages of Amiantos and Pelendri, said the government would provide assistance to repair the damages and that the Forestry Department would immediately begin reforestation works.

    He thanked all state services and the residents of the area for fighting the fire in such adverse conditions.

    "All the services of the state, the Forestry Department, the Police, the Fire Brigade, the Game Fund Service, the Civil Defence, the District Administration and the National Guard did everything possible to place the fire under control," Photiou said.

    Speaking after a meeting at the Saittas Crisis Management Centre, Photiou said "we must be very careful" because if the wind changes the fire could rekindle.

    He said figures showed the devastation probably extended over an area of ten square kilometres.

    Photiou noted that despite the rain in the Troodos area, all services will remain there "until we are sure there is no danger."

    Minister of the Interior Neoclis Sylikiotis said "we will record the damage" and proceed with reforestation and assistance to those who suffered damages.

    Sylikiotis pointed out that due to high temperatures and the dense growth, measures will be taken to prevent any rekindling of the fire.

    Replying to questions, he said the Police would be looking into the cause of the blaze.

    Officials from the Civil Defence Nicosia District Office told CNA that the residents who were forced to abandon their homes had returned, after spending the night in a hotel in Agros village.

    Camping sites and monasteries were also evacuated.

    In order to assist in efforts to put out the fire, an Italian fire-fighting plane and two helicopters, two Lebanese army helicopters and an Israeli airplane arrived on Friday night and Saturday morning.

    The Italian aircraft have been released since Greece needs them, while the Lebanese and Israeli aircraft will remain in Cyprus.

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