By Menelaos Hadjicostis, Associated Press
Search parties found the bodies of four people in front of a fire-ravaged mountain village in Cyprus on Sunday in what one minister called « the most destructive » fire in the history of the eastern Mediterranean island .
Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said civil defense volunteers discovered the remains just outside the village of Odou on the southern edge of the Troodos Mountains.
Authorities believe the bodies belong to four Egyptian workers who worked on Missed Saturday night. Mr Nouris said he had informed the Egyptian ambassador to Cyprus and that arrangements were being made for the repatriation of the remains.
“We are witnessing the most devastating fire since the Republic of Cyprus was founded, both materially and, unfortunately, in terms of Lives, « he said.
President Nicos Anastasiades called the fire » an unprecedented tragedy, « aside from the destruction caused by the 1974 war that divided the island along ethnic lines after Turkey responded to a unification coup invaded with Greece.
Mr Nouris said Greek and Israeli planes will join 11 other planes and helicopters in fighting the fire later on Sunday.
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The fire, which began on Saturday afternoon, forced the evacuation of at least eight mountain villages, destroyed several houses and, according to the Cypriot Environment Ministry, has so far burned more than 50 square kilometers of pine forest and orchards.
Discouraged residents who saw as their homes went up in flames, their anger at the so-called slow response of the authorities to the fight against the fire vented.
Mr Nouris said fire-fighters and ground personnel are focusing their efforts on two massive fire fronts between the villages of Odou and Vavatsinia . He said the authorities are « cautiously optimistic » that they will make progress in fighting the flames.
Mr. Anastasiades, who is touring the villages hit by the fire, said the fire was « partially contained » but there are concerns that the flames may intensify again if strong winds reappear later in the day.
Mr Nouris said 36 people who had been evacuated from their homes were taken to hotels in the capital Nicosia while the villagers of Melini were being provided with food and water.
The fire forced the Cypriot government to Requesting fire-fighting planes from other EU member states and neighboring Israel.
Fire Department officials said the entire department had been mobilized to fight the fire, with off-duty staff being put back into service.
Around 70 Fire engines, seven bulldozers and 10 water tankers were mobilized. Many volunteers also rushed to help the fire brigade.
Cyprus Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said the fire was the « most destructive » in the island’s history (Petros Karadjias / AP)
A pair of helicopters from two British military bases in Cyprus have been assisting since the fire broke out.
Two Greek Canadair CL-415 aircraft arrived in Cyprus to provide assistance. One had to turn back due to a technical defect, but was replaced by another.
Two Israeli planes were also dispatched while the authorities await confirmation of the arrival of two Italian planes.
Police say the 67- Yearly arson. A court ordered him to stay in custody for eight days to help investigate the cause of the fire.
Mr Anastasiades urged citizens to « keep an eye out for those who, either inadvertently or deliberately, cause such destruction ».
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