Israel sends more planes as Cyprus fire continues to burn
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Israel sends more planes as Cyprus fire continues to burn

IDF aircraft aiding Cypriot authorities to extinguish the Mediterranean island's worst blaze in recent years

Raoul Wootliff covers politics, corruption and crime for The Times of Israel.

A photo of a wildfire burning near the Cypriot village of Argaka in the Paphos region, taken from an IDF firefighting plane. (IDF Spokesman)
A photo of a wildfire burning near the Cypriot village of Argaka in the Paphos region, taken from an IDF firefighting plane. (IDF Spokesman)

After dispatching three firefighting planes on Saturday, Israel has sent additional help to Cyprus as it struggles to put out a massive wildfire still raging in its territory.

The IDF sent two planes Monday morning to the Mediterranean island to aid local fire services struggling to control the blaze near the village of Argaka in the Paphos region. Firefighters had managed to contain the fire, which burned over five square kilometers of vegetation, but heavy winds have bolstered the blaze over the last day.

Local reports said the fire was the biggest Cyprus has seen in recent years.

The army said in a statement it would “continue to provide assistance and knowledge it has acquired in dealing with this sort of fire.”

On Saturday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dispatched three Israeli firefighting aircraft to assist Cyprus authorities.

“Last night I ordered that three of our firefighting aircraft, out of our fleet of 13 or 14, be sent to help them, and the planes are now in Cyprus. This is part of the regional arrangement we have made with Cyprus and Greece about emergency assistance. I am pleased that we are able to extend this assistance,” Netanyahu said at the opening of Sunday’s cabinet meeting.

In 2010, Cyprus answered Netanyahu’s emergency call for assistance and sent its only firefighting aircraft to aid Israeli crews in putting out a massive brush fire in the Carmel Mountains.

The Carmel fire raging through the forest on December 2, 2010 (photo credit: Gili Yaari/ Flash90)
The Carmel fire raging through the forest on December 2, 2010. (Gili Yaari/ Flash90)

“Several years ago, during the massive Carmel fire, I contacted the President of Cyprus, he was the first I turned to, and the prime minister of Greece, that they should send firefighting aircraft. They had one such aircraft. They took it out of its hangar and sent it here,” Netanyahu said.

After destroying millions of trees and hundreds of homes, the Carmel blaze was finally brought under control with the help of planes and personnel from more than 16 countries, including Cyprus, Greece, Britain, Turkey, Russia and France. Forty-four people were killed in the fire.

In April, Israel, Greece and Cyprus conducted the first-ever joint fire-fighting exercise in a bid to create a regional network of emergency cooperation between the countries that would be operational during emergency situations.

Tamar Pileggi contributed to this report.

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