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Cyprus seeks Israel, EU help to fight wildfire

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Cyprus on Saturday requested emergency assistance of planes from Israel and the EU to fight a wildfire fanned by strong winds and high temperatures that forced the evacuation of several villages.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades called it a "very difficult day", and thanked both Greece and Israel for responding positively to the appeal.

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

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said "two firefighting planes" would be sent, which were expected to arrive on Sunday.

The intense fire spread from the southern Limassol district of Arakapa, destroying property but without any immediate report of casualties.

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With Cyprus sweltering under a week-long heatwave and temperatures rising to 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), some villages in the nearby Larnaca district were also evacuated as a precaution.

Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides told the official CNA news agency that Cyprus had requested assistance.

A handout picture provided by the Cypriot government's Press and Information Office (PIO) on July 2, 2021 shows Cyprus' new Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas giving a press statement at the presidential palace in the capital Nicosia. (Photo by Stavros IOANNIDES / PIO / AFP)


"We have requested four aircraft which will be thrown into the battle to extinguish the fires," the minister said.

The fire is raging on several fronts, with off-duty personnel called in to help with the firefighting effort.

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"It is difficult; that's why we've asked for help," Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis told CNA.

Over 20 firefighting vehicles, six helicopters and four planes are already fighting the flames, assisted by British troops and equipment stationed on the Mediterranean island.

Dense smoke could be seen in the southern resort town of Larnaca, 40 kilometres (25 miles) down the coast from Limassol, with the sun turning a "blood orange" colour.

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