Contrary to official statements that air quality was not hugely affected by the factory fire that burned overnight on Thursday in Yeri, a University of Cyprus (UCy) monitoring system found the information imparted to the public was not representative.

On Friday, after the fire was extinguished, the labour inspection department’s air quality monitoring unit said that the smoke had risen higher, about 100 to 200 metres – too high to cause any adverse effects to people’s health.

However, a statement on Sunday from the research team that runs the AURA air-quality monitoring project, said due to wind directions at the time, the bulk of the emissions travelled horizontally, not vertically.

The reports that no changes were observed at available monitoring station “are not representative… and should not be taken into account in handling the consequences,” the research team said.

That there was an impact on the atmosphere should be taken “as a given”, they said.

AURA measurements showed that, based on the variability of the wind direction in the 24 hours following the fire, the areas of Potamia, Louroudjina, Lymbia were most affected and to a lesser extent, Yeri, Dhali, Troulli and Avdellero.

The scientists said the conditions in the atmosphere at the time and the speed of the winds as observed from the AURA measurements were such that they did not allow the vertical orientation of the toxic gases “but on the contrary, allowed its horizontal expansion at a height consistent with the observations of the AURA station”.

“This results in a relatively limited dilution of toxic compounds, which directly affect areas close to the ground and therefore the inhabitants,” the research team said.

“The particles that have been produced and suspended, as well as any toxic chemicals that have adhered to them, are expected, for the most part, to settle to the ground in the aforementioned areas, while a much smaller part of them will be able to escape to higher layers of the atmosphere. Therefore, appropriate precautionary protection measures should be followed,” the statement concluded.