Cyprus’ teams dispatched to help Greece for a second day on Wednesday were battling resurgent fires, even as they came to terms with all they had witnessed fighting the flames that killed 80 people.
The 64-member team from Cyprus’ fire, civil defence, and ambulance services had arrived in Greece on Tuesday, after flames broke out on Monday night in the eastern resort of Mati.
“The hardest part of the first operation was the scene we had to witness when we looked down at the community from above and we saw the destruction that had taken place,” deputy chief of the fire services operations Leonidas Leonidou said.
“The size of the destruction has shocked me, how manic nature was,” he told reporters from Greece.
“I’ve never seen fire move at such a speed.”
Though the situation is far calmer now, Leonidou said the teams deployed from Cyprus would not leave until all smoke was obliterated though winds on Wednesday had been the strongest they had been since they arrived.
Ambassador of Cyprus to Greece Kyriakos Kenevezos confirmed that no Cypriots had lost their lives, though some had lost their homes.
Head of Larnaca’s civil defence Chrysilios Chrysiliou told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) “at first, we were in shock. Yesterday [Tuesday] we were divided into two big teams.”
Their own team with the fire services made up of 44 persons were in the Matis area while the forestry department was deployed in the Kineta area with 20 people.
Chrysiliou said their mission had been deployed at the top of the city to areas that hadn’t been entirely destroyed by the fire but were bordering the flames and there were several re-ignitions.
“Yesterday we spent the whole day obliterating fires which kept re-igniting. We wrapped at around 11pm. We were taken to a hotel, we rested and we were back again at 6:30am.”
They have divided the team into five smaller units.
According to Chrysiliou the warmth and gratitude from the public has been overwhelming.
“People stop and thank us. They come and give us water, coffee, croissants.”
The discipline and work ethic volunteers have displayed is over and above that of newly recruited soldiers, Chrysiliou said.
“I am very proud to be with them and they honour their uniform, the colours, their country and volunteerism as a whole. Double congratulations to them.”
Sakis Theodosiou, head of the nursing team said staff had sustained minor injuries primarily caused through exhaustion and nothing had been out of the ordinary.
Leonidou specified the fire services have not been involved in finding any of the missing persons as that issue was in the hands of the Greek authorities.