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Justice minister praises handling of Limassol fire, hopes for a ‘better day’ (Updated)

limassol fire
Photo source: CNA

The fire in the foothills of the Limassol mountains is completely under control and has no active front though firefighting forces remain vigilant in the area on Tuesday, while pre-emptive water drops have started.

Greek and Jordanian reinforcements are assisting the preventive efforts while two Israeli Air Tractor craft are also expected to participate for the first time, and two helicopters from Lebanon are present on the island on stand-by.

Speaking to Cyprus Mail fire service spokesman Andreas Kettis explained that the mechanical fault reported on Monday for one of the Greek Canadairs which prevented their operation in tandem was a minor fault which has since been repaired.

“Due to the fact that the fire was under control it was decided they did not need to be deployed and time could be spared to fix the minor fault,” Kettis said.

The fire services spokesman said that a total of 200 ground force personnel and 50-55 vehicles of various kinds remain at the scene, securing and patrolling the perimeter and guarding against potential flare-ups.

Meanwhile, Israeli Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, was welcomed by Justice Minister Anna Procopiou at the coordinating centre in Paramythas.

Under his responsibility are the Israeli fire safety back-up forces that arrived on the island on Monday afternoon.

Police and fire service drones were deployed overnight to detect flare-ups.

On Monday there were significant flare-ups near Apaisia, which were dealt with by both ground and air forces.

The fire zone has been surrounded and services are set to remain in the area as long as necessary.

In her statements from the coordination centre in Paramytha on Monday night, Minister of Justice Anna Procopiou said, “We are at the end of a very difficult day.”

“A lot of man hours have been invested by all the forces operating in the area here. This effort will continue, although today we managed to contain the fire. There are outbreaks that cause concern about a resurgence, that’s why we will have flights tomorrow […] for preventive reasons and all other forces will also remain on the ground,” she said.

Procopiou praised the self-sacrifice of all who had protected human lives, villages and properties and the coordination of the authorities.

“From the first moment of the rekindling of the fire in Alassa, all the [fire] suppression forces and the state services, the fire service, the forestry department, the game service, the civil defence, [worked] together with forces from the British bases and organised volunteer groups, who we want to thank especially. They are working intensively…dealing with the […] constant flare-ups.”

The justice minister also highlighted the role of the auxiliary services saying a holistic response would not have been possible without them.

“I refer to the welfare services, the ambulance service, the district administrations, as well as the community councils and municipalities, who have actively contributed [to] extinguish the fire but also to repair the damage, providing all the necessary assistance to the residents of the affected areas,” she said.

Procopiou went on to note that the electricity authority had responded promptly to immediately restore power to most of the affected areas, and further thanked the police and the national guard.

The EAC added later on Tuesday morning that power had been restored to all impacted areas, as the three transformers that were destroyed have already been replaces – as have 15 of the 16 damaged electricity poles. The remaining one will be replaced within the coming days, but is operational albeit at a lower voltage, but is not negatively impacting the electricity flow.

“All this was and is being done under the guidance of the President, who is constantly informed. [His] international contacts have ensured significant assistance from our neighbouring states,” Procopiou stated referring to the aerial firefighting support made available and on stand-by from Greece, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel.

Support from the European RescEU mechanism was activated at the request of the civil defence and the minister of foreign affairs secured assistance from the third country states.

The justice minister also credited the general director of the agriculture ministry, in his newly-created role as coordinator role of fire prevention and management, for the successful control of the Limassol fire.

The decision by the council of ministers at the start of the summer to establish this role has proven to be “an important pillar of crisis management” Procopiou said.

“I want to say that everyone exceeded the limits of their endurance and I think that thanks must be expressed publicly to all of them,” the minister concluded.

Asked if Tuesday would will be a better day, the minister said: “We hope so.”

For its part, the education ministry said it will provide counseling support to those in need – with the contact number’s of the ministry’s psychology service in the district listed as 25 822 850 and 25 822 365.

 

 

 

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