Cyprus– President Nicos Anastasiades canceled Tuesday’s reunification negotiations with the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community so as to deal with the huge forest fire that has raged out of control since Sunday afternoon.
A statement said Anastasiades had asked the United Nations, which is brokering the negotiations, to postpone a meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci on Tuesday, citing the “very difficult situation because of the massive fires that are still raging in the Solea region.”
Akinci offered to provide help on Monday to fight the fire, but Anastasiades told him there was adequate man power on the ground.
Two firefighters died on the job on Monday and three other people were injured, one of them critically, hospital sources said.
On Tuesday, Anastasiades toured the region, about 50 km to the southwest of the capital Nicosia, and drove through burned out mountain areas to get a first hand look at the extent of the damage.
Officials estimate the fire raged through a pristine forest of century-old pine over a 15-square-km area, also destroying fruit orchards in its path.
Anastasiades said the cabinet of ministers would decide this week on measures to help residents of mountain villages who lost their fruit stores.
Cyprus has applied to the European Environment Council in Luxembourg, requesting help from EU countries since the 16 aircraft dousing the flames to prevent the spread of fire proved not enough to contain it.
Minister of Justice and Public Order Ionas Nicolaou said France and Italy responded by sending three and one plane respectively, which are expected to arrive on the eastern Mediterranean island on Tuesday afternoon.
Greece, Israel and Britain have been providing fire fighting aircraft since Sunday to help ground forces contain the fire.