As Greece, Israel and other countries deployed firefighting aircraft to the Mediterranean islands, a huge forest fire in Cyprus has killed 4 people, destroyed houses and forced the evacuation of villages.

The fire started on Saturday and swept through the southern foothills of the Troodos Mountains as the country struggled to cope with the blazing heat wave.

“This is a tragedy,” President Nicos Anastasiades said on Twitter, calling it “the biggest fire since 1974.”

Anastasiades said that the fire caused “loss of life” and destroyed property and woodland, adding that “the government will provide immediate assistance to the victims and their families.

“We will not let anyone be abandoned because of the destruction of the fire.”

The authorities said that firefighters managed to control the main fire on Sunday morning, and warned that strong winds might push the fire to rise again.

In areas where the fire has been tamed, charred tree trunks can be seen on the hillsides, while in non-forest areas, it is clear at a glance that gray ashes have replaced the yellowed bushes.

The thick, knotty trunk of the ancient olive tree is a long-term symbol of the holiday island, and now it has become a smoldering skeleton.

Firefighters were seen on the road leading to the village of Vavaziniya near Larnaca. Several helicopters hovered over the fire, and thick smoke enveloped the sky.

European Union Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarcic said on Saturday that its “air firefighting capabilities” had been mobilized, and Italy and Greece sent aircraft to help.

The United Kingdom, which has a military base in Cyprus, has deployed two search and rescue helicopters and is helping the Cyprus aircraft refuel.

“As we work together to overcome this tragedy, we stand side by side with the Republic of Cyprus,” said Major General Rob Thomson, commander of the British Army in Cyprus.

In recent years, Cyprus has experienced long periods of heat waves and droughts.

In the past few days, inland temperatures have reached 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), and there has been very little rainfall since mid-April.

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