Air quality had reverted back to normal levels on Monday afternoon in Geri, after a recycling plant in the area burned to the ground.

Earlier in the day, the labour inspection department had warned that ground readings of the air quality had displayed high levels of pollutants but they were still within acceptable limits.

The fire which began on Sunday completely destroyed the recycling facility in Geri, and left residents without power and sheltering in place, due to toxic smoke.

The labour inspection department had urged caution for people venturing outside, encouraging the public to stay indoors, but later said it was safe.

Meanwhile, the Green party issued a strong statement saying neither proper crisis management nor a timely public warning system exists, to prevent severe environmental impact.

Calling the situation “extremely serious” and a “huge ecological problem” the party said they had been sounding the alarm since 2013 without result.

“The fire department must [start to place] stations in strategic locations [allowing] direct access to industrial areas and other potential hot spots producing persistent organic pollutants, such as dioxins,” the Greens said.

The party also claimed that the area lacks an integrated road network, sidewalks, trees and above all an automatic fire extinguishing system.

“The situation is extremely serious…due to the nature of the materials being burned, it …creates a huge ecological problem affecting the quality of the air and, by extension, the health of all those who will inhale the particles and not only in the Geri-Dali area,” the Greens said in their statement.

The party called for an immediate investigation into the possibility of malicious activity since fires in the area’s recycling plants seem to be a recurring phenomenon.

“Those in charge should take their responsibilities,” the party said, adding that a recent on-site investigation had raised fears of precisely such an incident happening.

“The area is in complete disarray, a dangerous mix of activities, garbage and flammable materials,” they said.

The fire at the plant on Sunday damaged underground as well as overhead cables resulting in a 3-to-4-hour outage in the early hours for residents in the vicinity, a spokeswoman for the electricity authority (EAC) told the CyBC.

By around 8am most residents were resupplied except those near where the damage occurred.

Two generators were expected to be brought to the scene to resupply the remaining affected residences while repairs by electricity crews are to begin as soon as the fire services gave the green light.

“The repairs are challenging and will take a long time to complete,” the EAC spokeswoman said.

The smell of burning plastic was reported as noticeable as far away as Larnaca district.

The paper and plastics recycling factory in the community’s industrial area broke out on Sunday at 4.04pm.

Firefighting forces from the Nicosia fire stations, with eight fire engines, remained at the scene overnight, while spokesman Andreas Kettis told the state broadcaster that cooling of adjacent cement silos was carried out because of the large thermal load and radiation.

The facility was not in operation overnight Saturday and on Sunday and a single factory guard was on duty who noticed the fire and alerted authorities.

“There is not much that can be done with such types of materials other than guard against the fire spreading to neighbouring factories and installations,” Kettis said, adding that personnel from the various services will remain in the area for several days to monitor the situation.

The environmental, labour and meteorological departments were coordinating over the matter.

Mayor of Geri, Neophytos Papacharalambous recalled that it is not the first time such an incident had occurred.

“For the past four years we are having to deal with such incidents,” he said, referring to a fire at a car recycling factory two years ago.

Mayor Leontios Kallenos of Dali, which has residential neighbourhoods abutting the affected area, also took the opportunity to reiterate the justified opposition of local residents to any further industrial installations near their homes, such as the much-contested asphalt factory.

The fire services meanwhile issued instructions to the area’s residents, including Kallithea, Pera Chorio Nisou, Alhambra, Dali, Agios Sozomenos, Potamia and Lymbia, to avoid outdoor exposure and stay inside with windows closed. Fans or air conditioners should be used or avoided as follows:

Ordinary household air conditioners (split type with indoor unit and outdoor/compressor) can be used as they recirculate indoor air.

Do not use machines/systems (of industrial units) which import and process outdoor air.

For further clarification regarding the above systems, residents are instructed to contact the supplier/installer of their air conditioning system.

Geri, recycling, paper plastic, blaze, inferno

A recycling plant in the industrial area of Geri burned to the ground