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Cyprus ‘ready to help’ as fire rages out of control in Greek island of Evia (Update)

A man reacts to smoke as a wildfire burns at the village of Kontodespoti, on the island of Evia, Greece, August 13, 2019. Michalis Karagiannis/Eurokinissi via REUTERS

Cyprus authorities expressed their readiness to assist in the firefighting mission on the Greek island of Evia where a massive fire is raging out of control.

So far, four villages and a monastery have been evacuated.

Justice minister Giorgos Savvides said he has expressed Cyprus’ readiness to contribute to the firefighting operations during a telephone call on Tuesday afternoon with Greek Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis.

Savvides told the Cyprus News Agency that Chrysochoidis said that at the moment there is no need but that they would remain in communication as there might be need for more help later on.

The Cypriot minister said he has already given orders to the fire service which, in cooperation with the forestry department and the civil defence, are standing by to dispatch a team if necessary.

Greece has already sought help from the European Civil Protection Mechanism. Croatia and Italy have already responded positively to the call while other countries were also expected to respond.

Greek authorities on Tuesday afternoon announced that a fourth village, Platania, was evacuated in central Evia. Three other villages – Makrymalli, Kondodespoti and Stavros – were evacuated earlier in the day. The central section of Evia island that includes the four villages has been declared under national emergency. The blaze is burning a dense pine forest which is within the EU’s Natura network.

Platania was evacuated by the ringing of church bells, which summoned the nearly 50 residents at the main square from which they were transferred elsewhere.

More than 227 firemen, aided by five helicopters and six other aircraft, were battling the blaze on Evia, Greece‘s second-largest island. A monastery was also evacuated. The blaze generated thick smoke that blanketed the capital, Athens, some 110 kilometres away.

Interior Minister Takis Theodorikakos arrived at Psahna where the residents of the four evacuated villages were taken,  to meet with officials and assess the situation.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was also monitoring the situation from the Fire Brigade’s Operation Center in Halandri, Athens.

Wildfires raged uncontrolled in at least four other Greek regions, and the fire brigade said it had been called to put out 182 fires in the last three days.

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