Four dead from devastating Cyprus forest fire

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By Wisdom Deji-Folutile

Four people were found dead on Sunday as a massive fire broke in the foothills of the Troodos Mountain range, an area of pine forest and densely vegetated shrubland.

At least ten communities were affected over an area exceeding 50 square kilometres (19 square miles) in what has been called one of the worst fires on record in the region.

The victims were found dead close to Odou, a mountainous community north of the cities of Limassol and Larnaca.

In a statement, Egypt’s foreign ministry said Cyprus authorities had said that the victims were Egyptians.

Witnesses said the victims were found a short distance from a vehicle that appeared to have crashed.

“It is one of the most destructive (fires) we have experienced, unfortunately, with victims. The state would stand by and support all those affected,” Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades told reporters from the area.

Meanwhile, victims of the fire have begun to count their losses as the devastating inferno led to the destruction of acres of farmlands in the forest.

“It will take them at least ten years to grow back. How are we to survive? It burnt everything,” said Andreas Costa, a 70-year-old farmer.

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The European Commission has disclosed that firefighting planes had departed from Greece to battle the fire, and Italy was also planning to deploy aerial firefighters.

Israel also pledged assistance, and aircraft from British military bases in Cyprus also contributed.

The EU’s emergency Copernicus satellite was activated to provide damage assessment maps of the affected areas, the commission said in a statement.

The cause of the fire, however, remains unclear. Cyprus experiences high temperatures in the summer months, with temperatures in recent days exceeding 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

Cypriot Police has said a 67-year-old person has been brought in for questioning in connection with the blaze.

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