Cyprus Mail

Netanyahu says happy to help with Argaka fire, remanded pair deny starting blaze (Update 6)


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he was pleased his country was able to extend assistance to Cyprus in order to put out the fire that broke out on Saturday near Argaka village, in Paphos.

Speaking before the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu recalled that several years ago, during the massive Carmel fire, he contacted the President of Cyprus for assistance.

“He was the first I turned to, and the Prime Minister of Greece, that they should send firefighting aircraft. They had one such aircraft. They took it out of its hangar and sent it here,” he said.

He said that on Saturday night he ordered three of Israel`s firefighting aircraft, out of our fleet of 13 or 14, be sent to help, and the planes were now in Cyprus.

“This is part of the regional arrangement we have made with Cyprus and Greece about emergency assistance. I am pleased that we are able to extend this assistance”, he pointed out.

Two individuals, a man from Argaka and a woman from Syria were remanded for four days by the Paphos court on Sunday on suspicion of starting the devastating fire on Saturday that was brought under control early on Sunday.

The, pair whose aged varied from 62 and 46 to 52 and 46, according to different reports, had been burning rubbish, the court heard, but the fire they started got out of control quickly due to strong winds on Saturday that had later hampered firefighting efforts.

They face charges of conspiracy to commit a felony on state forest land as a result of an irresponsible or negligent act or omission. The pair deny having anything to do with the fire.

Investigators told the court that a trace of the fire led them to the home of the suspects, which is located some 30 metres from the state forest, separated only by an orchard.

The duo told police the fire started from the state forest and spread to the orchard but investigators said the evidence said the opposite. There were also eyewitnesses, the court was told.

Police have so far taken eight statements and expect to take another 30 or so from people in the immediate environmnet of the supects whose land was also burned in the fire.

CNA_F23ba48c6cfb54f1db9b6e9d7f6fb929c The three firefighting planes from Israel arrived early in the morning at the Andreas Papandreou air base in Paphos to help the effort.
Ash and cinders were still smoking during the morning within the five square kilometre ares of scrub and pine trees that were destroyed by the fire. CyBC reported that some of the trees had been 50 years old. One forestry official called it a major environmental disaster, according to CNA.

The forestry department announced at around 8.30am that the blaze was under control “after an overnight battle” by firefighting forces from the department, the fire service, the game fund, volunteer firefighters and local residents but the danger still existed that it could re-ignite. The fire service said around lunchtime that the Israeli planes had carried out a flyover and spread flame retardant material over the affected area.

Israeli ambassador to Cyprus Yael Ravia Zadok visited the Andreas Papandreou air base in Paphos on Sunday morning and was monitoring the operations. Zadok said: “It is our duty and pleasure to stand by our Cypriot friends and extend a hand of assistance to them, just the way they did when Israel had to combat the massive fire on Mount Carmel in 2010”.

Another fire that broke out on Sunday morning around 9am near Souni in Limassol was brought under control around lunchtime, the fire services said. Twelve fire trucks from Limassol stations, one from the forestry department and one from the game fund had responded, with two helicopters plus another two from the British bases and two planes from the forestry department.

The fire service said a total of 31 fires were reported in the last 24 hours.

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