RAF helicopters are helping to fight a wildfire in Cyprus that has been described as the worst in the island’s history, as the bodies of four people were found amid charred wreckage.
"It is the worst forest fire in the history of Cyprus," said Charalambos Alexandrou, the director of the country’s forestry department.
Smoke from the fire could be seen in Nicosia, the island’s divided capital, 45 miles away.
Two helicopters from the RAF’s 84 Squadron are scooping up sea water and dropping it on the fire, which is raging across a large part of the island north of the cities of Limassol and Larnaca.
RAF Akrotiri, one of the British bases on the island, is being used by civilian aircraft to refuel, while British Army and RAF firefighters are on standby to help their Cypriot counterparts if needed.
An RAF Griffin HAR2 Bell helicopter takes off from the Sovereign Base Area (SBA) of Akrotiri, a British overseas territory west of Limassol, to help extinguish a massive fire raging on the slopes of the Troodos mountain range
Credit: Phil Dye/Ground Photographic Section, RAF/AFP via Getty Images
Maj Gen Rob Thomson, the commander of British forces in Cyprus, said: “The thoughts and prayers of all of us here in British Forces Cyprus are with the people of Cyprus during this incredibly difficult and testing time.
“Two RAF Search and Rescue helicopters from 84 Squadron have been and will continue to be part of the effort to tackle and extinguish this awful fire, and RAF Akrotiri is being used by Cypriot aircraft to refuel. Our ground fire-fighters are stood by to assist, if needed."
The fire, which started on Saturday, has been described as the “most destructive” in the country’s history.
RAF helicopters are helping efforts to try to extinguish the huge wildfire in the Troodos Mountains of Cyprus
Credit: Phil Dye
Search crews discovered the bodies of four people on Sunday outside a mountain village.
They are believed to be four Egyptian farm workers who had gone missing.
Their charred remains were found just outside the village of Odou, on the southern edge of the Troodos Mountains.
A firefighter battles flames in a forest on the slopes of the Troodos mountains in Cyprus
"Forensic examiners are going to the scene for identification… all the indications support the fact that these are the four missing persons we have been searching for since yesterday," said Nicos Nouris, the interior minister.
"We are experiencing the most destructive fire since the founding of the Cyprus republic in both material damage, but also unfortunately in terms of human lives.”
A burned car outside a damaged house in the village of Ora in the Troodos mountains
Greece, Italy and Israel were sending additional planes and helicopters on Sunday to fight the huge blaze, which has destroyed homes and forced the evacuation of several mountain villages. The wildfire has so far burned around 20 square miles of pine forest.
Around 40 people were evacuated from their homes and given hotel accommodation in Nicosia.
Nicos Anastasiades, the president of Cyprus, was due to visit the affected area on Sunday.
A 67-year-old man was remanded in custody on suspicion of having inadvertently caused the fire by burning stubble on his land.
Cyprus is in the grip of a heatwave, with temperatures reaching 40C or 104F.