Two Firefighters Killed in Cyprus Wildfire

Second firefighter succumbs to injuries when truck slid into a gully

Cypress1

A firefighting aircraft drops fire retardant material in efforts to contain a huge forest fire that continues to rage out of control for a third day, in the mountainous areas southwest of Cyprus’ capital Nicosia Tuesday, June 21, 2016. The fire has claimed the lives of two fire fighters. More planes from Italy and France are expected later Tuesday to join 16 other aircraft from Greece, Israel, Cyprus and British forces stationed on two military bases on the east Mediterranean island in battling the fire. (AP Photo/Philippos Christou)

MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS, Associated Press

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — A huge forest fire raging out of control for a third day in the mountains southwest of the Cyprus’ capital of Nicosia has claimed the life of a second firefighter, authorities confirmed Tuesday.

The announcement of 44-year-old Marios Aristotelous’ death came a day after another colleague, Andreas Sophocleous, 49, lost his life in the line of duty. Both firefighters died from injuries sustained when their truck slid down a 20 meter-gully Monday.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and the head of Cyprus’ Orthodox Christian Church Archbishop Chrysostomos II said they were distraught at the news of the firefighters’ deaths and pledged to financially support their families.

A third firefighter remains in critical condition with head injuries suffered in a separate accident Sunday when his truck overturned.

Forestry Department spokesman Andreas Christou said three more planes, one from Italy and two from France, are expected later Tuesday to join 16 other aircraft from Greece, Israel, Cyprus and Britain.

Some 350 firefighters and volunteers along with more than 60 vehicles are trying to contain one of Cyprus’ largest forest fires in difficult terrain amid a heat wave with temperatures surging to over 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). The fire has scorched around 15 square kilometers (5.8 sq. miles) of trees and countryside.

The Forestry Department said crews have checked the fire’s spread on several fronts, but are battling to contain flare-ups in the northeastern foothills of the Troodos mountain range.

The blaze prompted Anastasiades to postpone Tuesday’s scheduled meeting with breakaway Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci as part of talks aiming to reunify ethnically divided Cyprus so he can visit the affected areas.

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This story has been corrected to say both firefighters died from injuries sustained in same accident.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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