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Government declares fallen firemen ‘heroes’, pledges support to families

Minute's silence at the cabinet

President Nicos Anastasiades will not be attending any formal events until the end of the week, while he is to attend the funerals of the two firemen who died during the operations to put out the fire in the Solea region, government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said on Wednesday.

Following a cabinet meeting, Christodoulides said that the president will however meet on Thursday with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci as part of their twice-weekly meetings to negotiate a settlement of the Cyprus problem. Tuesday’s meeting was rescheduled for Thursday due to the fires.

Christodoulides said that the funerals of the two men, Marios Aristotelous, 44, and 49-year-old Andreas Sofocleous, who were killed on Monday when the water tanker they were in tumbled into a 20-metre ravine, will be held on public expenditure. The funeral of Aristotelous, will be held on Wednesday in Dhenia, while that of Sofocleous, on Thursday in Lakatamia.

“All flags in state buildings will fly half-mast for three days”, Christodoulides said, and the two men will be declared heroes and will be honored in a ceremony at the Presidential Palace.

“The cabinet also approved more than €167,000 as compensation to the families of the two firemen, and €95,000 for the wife and each child,” he said. Aristotelous had two children, and Sophocleous five.

Christodoulides said that the cabinet also approved scholarships for the children of the two men, for undergraduate and graduate studies, up to €10,000 per year, per child.

Furthermore, the cabinet approved hiring one child from each family in the civil service in a temporary post, and the exemption from the army service of Aristotelous’ son Andreas.

He added that state services will provide all necessary support to the families of the two men.

Christodoulides added that the cabinet ordered state services to start recording the damage to private property due to the fire, so that the government may proceed with compensations.

He also said that the forestry department is to prepare a “fast reforestation programme, which it will submit before the cabinet within two months”.

He added that the cabinet “recognises the spirit of self-sacrifice of the staff of the various services and of the volunteers”.

At the moment, he said, the focus is on putting the fire under control, but the cabinet will also deal with this issue in the future.

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