In Pictures: Cyprus’s worst forest fire in decades

A huge forest blaze in Cyprus has killed four people, destroyed homes and forced evacuations of villages as Greece, Israel and other countries deployed fire-fighting planes to the Mediterranean island.

The fire began on Saturday and has swept through districts in the southern foothills of the Troodos mountains as the country grapples with a blistering heatwave.

“It is a tragedy,” President Nicos Anastasiades said on Twitter, describing it as “the largest fire since 1974”.

The blaze had caused “loss of life” and destroyed property and forest lands, Anastasiades said, adding that “the government will provide immediate assistance to the victims and the families of the victims.

“We will not leave anyone abandoned in the destruction of the fire.”

Firefighters were successful in bringing the main fire under control on Sunday morning, authorities said, while warning that strengthening winds could yet propel a resurgence.

In areas where the fire had been tamed, charred tree trunks were visible on hillsides, while grey ash had replaced yellowed scrub as far as the eye could see in non-forested areas.

Thick gnarled trunks of ancient olive trees, long emblematic of the holiday island, were reduced to smouldering skeletons.

Firefighters were seen along the road leading to Vavatsinia village, near the city of Larnaca, and several helicopters hovered above the fire as a thick grey smoke obscured the sky.

Janez Lenarcic, European Commissioner for Crisis Management, said on Saturday its “aerial firefighting capacity” had been mobilised, with Italy and Greece sending planes to help.

Britain, which has military bases in Cyprus, deployed two search and rescue helicopters and was helping refuel Cypriot aircraft.

“We stand shoulder to shoulder with the Republic of Cyprus as we work together to overcome this tragedy,” said the commander of British Forces Cyprus Major General Rob Thomson.

Cyprus has experienced extended heatwaves and periods of drought in recent years.

In the past few days, the temperature has hit 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) inland and there has been very little rain since mid-April.

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