At least four people have died after forest fires raged through Cyprus, razing large swathes of land around the cities of Larnaka and Limassol on Saturday.
An estimated 55 square km, or over 13,000 acres, of land, as well as houses and other property, have been burned across Cyprus since the fire broke out.
Officials believe that the four burned bodies, found in a forested area near a village called Odou, belong to the four people of Egyptian descent who were reported missing on Saturday.
Cypriot Internal Minister Nikos Nouris stressed that the bodies will undergo testing to confirm their identity, but that they likely belong to the four farm workers, stating:
“Medical examiners are arriving at the scene to identify the bodies, although all of the signs indicate that they are likely the four people who were reported missing as of yesterday.”
The four missing people were farm workers who were working in a field in the area as a massive fire broke out. Tragically, they did not know the area well, which impeded their ability to escape from the blaze in time, officials suspect.
According to evidence at the scene, the four young men tried to climb through a forested, mountainous region by foot in order to escape the fire.
Cyprus President: Fires a tragedy unlike the country has ever seen, except for Turkish Invasion of 1974
The fires have caused massive destruction in the areas surrounding Larnaka and Limassol, as the flames burned down houses and plots of land, threatening the lives of many.
Nikos Anastasiades, President of Cyprus, stated that the country had not faced such a dangerous, tragic situation since the Turkish Invasion of the island in 1974, which split the island in two and left thousands of Greek Cypriots dead, missing, or displaced.
Speaking to the Cypriot public on Sunday, Anastasiades stated that the fires are “a tragedy the likes of which we have never faced before, apart from the period of the Turkish Invasion in 1974.”
In the face of the deadly fires, firefighters and first responders from Cyprus and Greece bravely tamed the blazes, and special planes sprayed water across the burning countryside.
Andreas Kettis, representative of Cyprus’s force of firefighters, outlined the war against the deadly blaze on Sunday.
“Last night, firefighters and members of the forestry department gave a night-long fight against the fires. Around 8:00 AM, there were still active fronts, which luckily are not expanding, along the borders of the main fire. Urgent forces have already been placed there, as well as in any inhabited regions that are threatened by the fire.”
Man held under suspicion of starting the fire
While the cause of the fire has not yet been confirmed, a 67-year-old man is currently being held by the police under suspicion of lighting the deadly blaze, possibly while burning plant matter on his land.
Neighbors allegedly witnessed the man fleeing his fields shortly before the deadly fire began in the same area. He denies any involvement in the fire.
The island, much like most of the Mediterranean, faced scorchingly-hot temperatures throughout the week, with stunning highs of 40 degrees Celsius, or 104 degrees Fahrenheit.