South Cyprus authorities have ordered the evacuation of four mountain villages which lie in the path of a forest fire blazing out of control, Greek Cypriot Interior Minister Socrates Hasikos said last night.
The residents of the four villages, about 50 km southwest of Nicosia, were told to be out of their homes by nightfall, as fire-fighting aircraft would stop operating after that.
A spokeswoman for the police said that the fire had been started by a 12-year-old boy who tried to set fire to dry grass outside his grandfather’s country house.
The heatwave and winds fanned the flames out of control, driving them towards the central Troodos mountain range forest, covered mostly by pine trees which are highly flammable.
Many residents woke up the smell of thick smoke this morning.
South Cyprus asked Greece to send fire-fighting planes. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent three fire-fighting helicopters on his own initiative.
He said that this was a reciprocal gesture, as the South had sent a substantial fire-fighting force to help quell a fire burning out of control on Mount Carmel, a few years ago.