NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) – Israel sent two dropping planes on Thursday to help fight a major fire that burned at least 10,000 hectares (4,000 hectares) of forest at the foot of the Pentadaktylos Mountains at a breakaway north of ethnically divided Cyprus. .
Two Israeli planes joined two more planes and a helicopter sent by the Cypriot government to fight the fire at the request of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot authorities through the United Nations peacekeeping force in Cyprus or UNFICYP in the island nation.
A total of 11 planes from Turkey, the UN and two British military bases on the island also helped put out the fires.
Cyprus was divided in 1974 when Turkey attacked after a coup aimed at reunification with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes the Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence, and Turkish Cypriots reject the internationally recognized authority of the Cypriot government over the northern third of the island.
Deputy Cypriot government spokeswoman Niovi Parissinou told the state-run Cypriot news agency that government authorities are “always ready” to respond to a call for help. Despite the island’s complicated policy, such “fire diplomacy” shows the willingness of the opposing parties to cooperate in resolving natural disasters.
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The head of the Cypriot forestry department, Charalambos Alexandrou, told CNA that the Israeli planes would first land at Larnaca airport in the south before starting to descend over the fire-affected areas in the north.
Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar flew over the affected area to inspect the extent of the damage. Hopes that the fire would be contained on Thursday were dashed as the wind blew the fire. The Tatar told Turkish Cypriot television BRT after a second on-site inspection late Thursday that authorities would do whatever it takes to stop the fire from advancing.
The Tatar had previously said the fire threatened three villages, but residents who used tractors to clean the brushes around their homes prevented the fire from spreading. Apparently it caught fire when a car caught fire in front of the village home.
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