The villages of Flamoudi and Ardana in the north were evacuated by Turkish Cypriot authorities in the early hours of Thursday after a huge fire broke out in Kantara, on the eastern part of the Kyrenia mountain range, on Wednesday.
The residents of the two villages were temporarily housed in hotels located in the village of Davlos, and do not yet know when they will be able to return to their homes, according to the Cyprus News Agency.
The village of Trikomo is also on high alert, with its residents reportedly ready to evacuate their homes as well should the winds change direction and bring the blaze dangerously close to the them.
So far, the villages affected by the fire in the north are Flamoudi, where it first started, Ardana, Ayios Andronikos, Ayios Iakovos, Mandres, Akanthou and Lefkoniko.
“This is a catastrophe, it will take a long time before we can assess the damage cause by the fire and start planning the next steps,” Turkish Cypriot “prime minister” Unal Ustel told media in the north on Thursday.
The Cyprus government on Wednesday sent two firefighting planes and a helicopter to the northern part of the island to help fight off the fire.
The aircraft were sent on Wednesday afternoon after the Turkish Cypriot authorities submitted a request for help to Unficyp.
Cyprus police, subsequently sent a helicopter to join aircraft from the British bases, Unficyp and Turkey.
All the aerial firefighting was stopped at 7.30pm and resumed at 6am on Thursday.
The head of the Forestry Department Charalambous Alexandrou told state broadcaster CyBC on Thursday that a firefighting plane from Israel is on standby and ready to assist in the efforts should the situation require it.
“The situation is slightly better compared to Wednesday,” he said. “However, the fire is still raging and we are not yet close to extinguish it.”
Strong ground firefighting forces remained in the area from the relevant department in the north.
It was reported that the decision to provide help was signed off by President Nicos Anastasiades.
The fire broke out at 2pm on Tuesday and strong winds made it very difficult to bring under control. Four people were injured, one of whom was a fireman.
The Tochni monastery near Mandres was also at risk from the flames which later shifted direction. Reports late at night suggested the fire was moving eastwards towards the village of Akanthou.
Firefighters were dispatched to extinguish the fire half an hour after it broke out, said ‘agriculture minister’ Dursun Oguz.
Fanned by strong winds, the fire started spreading towards Ayios Iacovos and Mandres villages on Wednesday, Turkish Cypriot newspaper Yeni Duzen reported.
It added the fire in the northern and southern parts of Flamoudi, the village closest to Kantara, was partially under control.
By the afternoon the flames had already destroyed over 10 square kilometres of brush and wild vegetation.
Meanwhile, the municipality of Trikomo, located around 20 kilometres from Flamoudi where the fire broke out, advised its residents to leave their houses due to a change in the direction of the wind.
It also called on people owning tractors to irrigate their lands as fast as possible to lower the risk of fires spreading.
According to the reports, the fire was caused by a short circuit on an agricultural vehicle. Two people operating the vehicle that caught fire were reportedly arrested for negligence.
After visiting the area, People’s Party leader Kudret Özersay said that villagers complained the fire started because the dry vegetations was not cleared from the area. Locals had also said that authorities failed to respond promptly to their calls about smoke in the area.