Israeli, Greek Cypriot planes help Turkish Cypriots battle wildfire

Israel dispatched two aircraft to help Turkish Cypriots battle a wildfire in a mountainous area in the north of the Mediterranean island, Yenidüzen newspaper reported.

Another two planes dispatched by the Greek Cypriot-controlled Republic of Cyprus were also fighting the blaze in a mountainous area near the Flamoudi (Mersinlik) village, located in the eastern Famagusta province, Hüseyin Cahitoğlu, Chairman of the Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Committee told Yenidüzen on Thursday.

A total of eleven aircraft, including five helicopters and six planes, were participating in firefighting efforts, Ersin Tatar, the president of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), told state-run broadcaster BRT.

The fires broke out after a machine set on fire on Tuesday and have destroyed more than 12,000 acres (4,800 hectares) of forest area. They have not yet been taken under control.

In addition to Israel and the Republic of Cyprus, Turkey, the United Nations and the United Kingdom, which has two military bases on the island, were among those sending aircraft, the Associated Press reported.

The Greek Cypriot-controlled Republic of Cyprus in the south of the island, which provides aerial firefighting support to the northern administration of the ethnically divided island, announced that it was awaiting a request by Turkish Cypriots to also fight the fire from the ground, Yenidüzen said.

Charalambos Alexandrou, Director of the Forestry Department of the Republic of Cyprus, said a firefighting team of 40 people was ready to provide support, Yenidüzen said citing the Greek Cypriot media.

The Republic of Cyprus has sent the firefighting aircraft following a request from the Turkish Cypriot authorities made through the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), AP said.

Cyprus was ethnically divided in 1974 when Turkey invaded the north in response to a Greek Cypriot coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece. The internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus has controlled the southern two-thirds of the island, and the TRNC, founded in 1983 and only recognised by Turkey, the northern third.



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