To assist in putting out a massive wildfire that has burned across at least 10,000 acres of woodland near the foothills of the Pentadaktylos mountain range in the breakaway north of ethnically divided Cyprus, Israel has sent two water-dropping planes.
Cyprus’s NICOSIA (AP) — To assist in putting out a massive wildfire that has burned through at least 10,000 acres (4,000 hectares) of woodland in the foothills of the Pentadaktylos mountain range in the breakaway north of ethnically divided Cyprus, Israel sent two water-dropping planes on Thursday.
The two Israeli aircraft responded to a request from the breakaway Turkish Cypriot authorities made through the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus, or UNFICYP, on the island nation, joining two other planes and a helicopter that the Cyprus government sent to extinguish the fire.
Eleven aircraft in total, including those from Turkey, the UN, and two British military facilities on the island, were contributing to the fight against the fire.
When Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 after a coup intended to unite Cyprus with Greece, Cyprus was divided. Turkish Cypriots reject the internationally recognized Cypriot government’s control over the island’s northern third, and only Turkey recognizes their declaration of independence.
Niovi Parissinou, a deputy spokesperson for the Cyprus government, told the state-run Cyprus News Agency that the administration is “always ready and eager” to respond to the appeal for assistance. This type of “fire diplomacy” demonstrates a readiness for the opposing groups to cooperate in coping with natural disasters despite the island’s complicated politics.
The head of the Cyprus Forestry Department, Charalambos Alexandrou, told CNA that the two Israeli planes would land first at the southern Larnaca airport before beginning airdrops over the northern districts affected by the fire.
Ersin Tatar, the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, flew over the devastated area to assess the extent of the harm. As gusts fanned the flames on Thursday, hopes that the fire would be put out were shattered. After a second on-the-spot examination of the firefront late on Thursday, Tatar informed Turkish Cypriot BRT TV that authorities would take every necessary action to stop the spread of the flames.
Tatar had originally claimed that the fire endangered three villages, but locals used tractors to remove brush from around their houses, halting the progress of the fire. According to reports, the fire was sparked when a car outside a house in the village caught fire.
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