Hundreds of firefighters and several firefighting planes have deployed as the blaze rages on for a second day in the Troodos Mountains.
Four people were found dead as a massive fire raged on a second day in Cyprus, razing swathes of forest in a blaze an official called the worst on record.
The blaze, fueled by high winds, affected at least 10 communities over an area of 50 km² (19 square miles) and destroyed several homes in the foothills of the Troodos mountain range, an area of densely vegetated pinewood and brushwood .
The victims, believed to be Egyptian nationals and agricultural workers, were found dead near Odou, a mountainous community north of the towns of Limassol and Larnaca.
“Everything indicates that these are the four people missing since yesterday,” Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said on Sunday.
“We are experiencing the most destructive fire since the founding of the Republic of Cyprus both in material damage, but also unfortunately in terms of human lives,” said Nouris.
Nouris said firefighting planes and ground crews were focusing their efforts on two massive fire fronts between the villages of Odou and Vavatsinia. He said authorities were “cautiously optimistic” that they would make progress in tackling the flames, but strong wings expected later today could hamper efforts.
He said 36 people who had been evacuated from their homes were taken to hotels in the capital, Nicosia, while food and water are provided to residents of Melini village.
Hundreds of firefighters and 11 firefighting planes battled to stop the blaze, state radio RIK reported.
The European Union’s executive body, the European Commission, said firefighting planes had left Greece to fight the blaze. Italy and Israel have also reportedly deployed aerial firefighters to help Cyprus.
The EU’s Copernicus emergency satellite was also activated to provide damage assessment maps in affected areas, the Commission said in a statement.
“It is the worst forest fire in the history of Cyprus,” the director of the Forestry Department, Charalambos Alexandrou, told Omega TV of Cyprus.
Attempts were made to prevent the blaze from passing through the mountains and to stop it before reaching Machairas, a pine forest and one of the highest peaks in Cyprus.
The cause of the fire, which broke out around noon on Saturday, was not clear. Cyprus experiences high temperatures and drought during the summer months, with temperatures in recent days exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).
Police said they were questioning a 67-year-old in connection with the fire.