By Jean Christou
A number of “frustrated and angry” residents in Oroklini in Larnaca have told the Cyprus Mail they are at their wits end over the bonfire situation with Easter still more than two weeks away.
In a lengthy plea in writing to the newspaper, the group who do not wish to use their names for fear of reprisals, say that for the past two weeks their quiet, leafy street in a residential area has been turned into an ugly, dangerous dumping ground for old sofas and other rubbish (bottles, cans, old chairs, metal boxes and other trash), with fires being set alight every night in the road itself and youths meeting to drink, let off illegal fireworks “and generally make a nuisance until the early hours of the morning”.
The letter said that after several calls and polite complaints made to the municipality by many of the residents, they were told: “It’s Easter’ and there is a tradition of burning Judas, hence the gathering of materials to burn”.
Following a week of complaints to the local council, the residents said the items were removed but reappeared a day later.
“Tradition is a good thing and needs to preserved in this modern day and age, but the street is not the place for dumping and lighting what are actually illegal fires, especially when there are many barren, waste ground areas around the village which would be safer and more appropriate,” said the residents. They said with the fires and ructions beginning four weeks prior to Easter, it was a long time for residents to have to put up with the situation.
They said the police and fire brigade had been called out on several occasions but nothing had changed, and the local council had issued leaflets with warnings about fines but “why does this not apply in the street which has been newly claimed as a waste tip and a site for dangerous fires?”
“Does observing ‘tradition’ now include flouting the law,” the residents asked.
“Sadly, it is doubtful whether any action will be taken to rectify this situation and once again, people will have to ‘live with it’. It is a reflection of our society, its culture and actions and behaviours, as well as a reluctance by those in office ‘to do the right’ thing’ and find balanced solutions to the benefit of everyone living in the village and on this island.”
A police officer at Oriklini told the Cyprus Mail on Tuesday that they had received noise complaints but none about bonfires, even though the resident said they had complained to police. He said the Easter bonfires were allowed in designated and controlled areas.
The officer said they were doing their best to respond to any complaints but there were only three of them to cover the Oroklini area, not to mention the far more dangerous situation of stopping young people from blowing up their body parts with firecrackers, he said.
Part of the problem with fires being lit coming up to Easter lay with the fact that youths were divided into factions and each faction would try to destroy the others’ bonfires by setting them alight prematurely, the officer said. To prevent this, youths tended to stand guard over their bonfire materials at night, which he conceded was leading to noise complaints.
Youngsters also light smaller fires to keep them warm as they stand guard.
“We try to speak to the kids,” the officer said. “And if residents have complaints they should come to us, not the newspapers.”