20 June 2013 09:46

 LARNACA - Rural Larnaca was engulfed in flames yesterday as a massive fire threatened homes and motorists and caused chaos on the Nicosia-Limassol motorway.
Firemen were yesterday still fighting the blaze late last night.
A 19-year-old man was yesterday questioned by police on suspicion of arson after four fires broke out in the Tochni – Chirokitia area.
Police spokesman Andreas Angelides said the authorities were speaking with the teenager, who is a National Guard conscript, and that he had yet to explain what he was doing in the area after eye witnesses had reportedly seen him close to where the fires had started.
“There have been no other developments at this stage,” said the spokesman, adding that the man, who is said to be from Kofinou village, had given investigators contradictory statements during questioning.
Members of the fire services endured a tough day as they battled with fierce blazes which were made all the more dangerous due to unusually strong winds in the area.
Speaking to The Cyprus Daily, fire services spokesperson, Lisa Kemidji confirmed that large areas of Chirokitia were evacuated by authorities as the flames got dangerously close to houses.
She also confirmed that so far there have been no casualties.
“The fire which continues to rage out of control is being tackled by at least 100 men from our department and others who are assisting us. Large areas of Chirokitia were evacuated and luckily no one was injured.”
The first fire is believed to have broken out at around 10am.
Kemidji added that a number of private vehicles had been destroyed in the massive blaze but it was still too early to speculate on the damage caused.
“We do not know at this point but unfortunately it appears there will be a great deal of damage to land and perhaps even houses.”
The massive fire fighting expedition was tackled by two helicopters from the fire services, a plane and two helicopters from the forestry department, and a police force helicopter.
The British bases also offered their assistance and the use of an additional two helicopters while Civil Defence teams were also called in to help with the evacuation.
Ground support included 10 fire fighting vehicles and five forestry department trucks.
Concern that the Chirokitia archaeological site could be damaged by the fire was quickly quashed by the Communications Minister who confirmed that the flames were not as close as originally thought.
Police are urging the public to stay away from the wider area until further notice is given.


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