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Cyprus

Residents of affected villages on tenterhooks

President Nicos Anastasiades toured the area on Tuesday and talked to residents

As the fire in the Solea forest area rages for the third day, affected communities have joined forces with authorities to assist in any way they can while preparing to possibly being forced to leave their homes if the flames reach their villages.

President Nicos Anastasiades toured the area on Tuesday, met with community leaders and was briefed about the situation.

In Evrychou, the fire burned the main artery of the water department’s pipe network, community leader Xenofon Xenofontos said. He added that on Monday authorities had restored half of the damage with the help of volunteers.

He also extended his gratitude to all volunteers, more than 50, he said from the hunters’ associations and other groups, who on Monday rushed to help.

As of Tuesday evening, the fire was raging in Asinou, and just outside Kourdali, while the civil defence had already alerted residents of Kourdali, Spilia, Ayia Irini and Kannavia, to be prepared to vacate at any moment.

“Only God can help us,” a Spilia resident told the Cyprus Mail. “One fire is put out, another one erupts, there goes our forest”.

The resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the community was anxiously watching the fire raging on the mountain slope just outside the neighbouring village, Kourdali, consuming the forest, and threatening houses.

Kourdali is home to two 16th century religious monuments. The church of Panayia Chrysokourdaliotissa, which has been listed as a European heritage monument, is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, while its murals and several of its icons also date back to the 16th century.

The 16th century monastery, also dedicated to Virgin Mary, has been declared as an ancient monument. In Kourdali also stands a 19th century church dedicated to Ayios Antonios. Church icons and artefacts have already been removed as a precaution since Monday.

“We are worried for our monastery, our churches and our homes,” the Spilia resident said. She added that the air in the village is heavy from the fire smoke and that ashes fall over everything.

Authorities alerted them, she said, to be prepared to evacuate.

“It’s the third day now. Some left, went to stay with family elsewhere, but others did not want to be away from home, and returned,” she said.

Area residents are trying to do their bit to help firefighting crews and volunteers.

In Sina Oros, women of the community were preparing sandwiches to distribute to the crews that have been battling with the fire, and were without food for many hours. But a Nicosia based business too, was making an appeal on Tuesday to members of the public for water and sandwiches, which it would be transferred to Galata, where the coordination centre is set up to offer to the fire fighters and volunteers.

Michalis Kyrillou resident of Galata, is helping in his own way by providing support to firemen, and other services that are in the area struggling to put out the fire.

“I try to help everyone, I offer them whatever I can, internet, phone, chargers for their mobile phones,” Kyrillou told state broadcaster CyBC. “They are putting a fight against the flames, I help them with whatever they need”.

He added that locals are disappointed because they feel there is a delay in the response time of authorities.

“I don’t believe it is neglect, but this is due to the location. There is no road network in some areas for the fire engines to approach, only aircraft can do this,” he said.

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