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Who did it?
Everyone is curious to find out who or how the fire which destroyed hundreds of dönüms (dunams) of land started on Sunday. Prime Minister Ersin Tatar in his address in parliament raised the possibility of arson after it emerged that the fire in the Mesarya (Mesaoria) area, Tepebaşı (Diorios) and Kormacit (Kormatikis) all started at the same time. “If this is a case of arson we shall investigate,” he said. Agriculture Minister Dursun Oğuz made a different statement. He said that be believed that the fire in Kormacit (Kormatikis) had started at the side of the road and was more probably caused by a cigarette butt. Oğuz added that the Tepebaşı (Diorios)-Kalklanlı (Kalochorio) fire had started in a military zone, most probably by power lines.
- The ‘Queen’ survived – Photographer Yıltan Taşcı posted a photo of the 800-year-old monumental olive tree in Kalkanlı, showing that it had survived the fire
- Covid-19: More restrictions being lifted –May 20: Beaches, snack bars and internet cafes, May 27: Gyms, June 1: Hotels, casinos and betting offices, July 1: Weddings.
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The fire nightmare is not ending
The fire disasters experienced one after the other in our country are continuing. The fires in Ulukışla (Marathovounos), İskele (Trikomo) and Alayköy (Gerolakkos) charred the land, destroy crops. The disaster left being the Tepebaşı (Diorios) fire could be seen more clearly. As the weather becomes hotter, news of fires come in from all corners of the country. The fire-fighters had to put out more than 20 fires in the last three days. 400 dönüms (dunams) of shrub and five pine trees burned to ashes in Alayköy (Gerolakkos). 500 dönüms (dunams) of barley were destroyed in Ulukışla (Marathovounos). The fire that broke out at the waste dump site in İskele (Trikomo) was put out quickly. Centuries-old olive trees in a forest area covering more than 5000 hectares were burned to the ground in the Tepebaşı (Diorios) fire.
- “As long as I am the mayor, these poles cannot be erected” – Ahmet Benli, Mayor of Gönyeli (Geunyeli) stopped the workers from erecting the pylons for the city surveillance system cameras by sitting on them.
800-year-old cultural heritage turns into ash
The extent of the damage caused by the Tepebaşı (Diorios) fire, believed to be the biggest forest fire since the 1995 Beşparmak (Pentadacytlos) fire, emerged at sunrise. Hundreds of wildlife, thousands of trees have been destroyed. Nearly 90 per cent of the monumental olive trees ages ranging from 400 to 800 years old were also destroyed. The cooling efforts with the help of the helicopters continued all day yesterday (Monday). It is believed that the Kormacit (Kormakitis) fire was caused by a cigarette butt and the one in Tepebaşı (Diorios) from power lines in a military zone. The arrest of a 30-year-old man accused of starting a fire in Akdeniz (Agia Eirini) raised suspicions of arson.
- Open casinos in a closed country – The cabinet adopted a series of new decisions to further relax the measures during its meeting held in Güzelyurt (Morphou). The decision to open casinos caught everyone’s attention. Speaker of the cabinet, Kudret Özersay noted that air, sea, and land ports will remain closed but that the casinos and the betting offices will be reopened as of June 1.
- Social distancing at the table – The restaurants, cafes, and bars will reopen tomorrow (Wednesday) after two months.
- The latest situation: North 108 cases, four deaths; South 917 cases, 24 deaths; Turkey 150,593 cases, 4,171 deaths.
He said he gave in to temptation
While the whole island was weeping yesterday (Monday) for the destruction caused by Sunday’s fire, Y.S tried to start a fire in the same area. He was arrested after the police were informed. As the investigation into the fire which burned a huge area between Tepebaşı (Diorios) and Kalklanlı (Kalochorio) continued, Y.S was arrested after an eyewitness claimed he had tried to start another fire in the same area around noon. He was seen throwing firelighters used for barbeques five kilometres outside of Kormacit (Kormatikis) village. A villager passing by quickly intervened, putting out the fire before it could spread. He then informed the police who brought the man in for questioning. According to information obtained by Diyalog, the man also confessed to starting the fire on Sunday, stating that he had given in to temptation.
- What a shame – 5,000 of the 78,000 hectares of forest in the TRNC was destroyed in the Tepebaşı (Diorios) fire.
One arrest for fire
One suspect was detained by police investigating the cause of the fire at Tepebaşı (Diorios). According to a statement issued by police, a man was seen throwing firelighters into the forest somewhere between Tepebaşı (Diorios) and Akdeniz (Agia Eirini) before driving away. A villager passing by claimed he noticed the fire and put it out before it could spread. It emerged the man, detained by police, worked for KIB-TEK (TC Electricity Authority). It’s not known if he was really behind the fires but was subject to insults on social media after posting photos from the fire.
- “Arrest me” – Gönyeli (Guenyeli) Mayor Ahmet Benli refused to let go of a metal poll being erected for surveillance cameras, stating that he would not allow such an ugly structure in his town. He said he would only allow the cameras to be erected on poles he proposed to be used.
Cabinet take steps to remove the few remaining restrictionsYenidüzen, Kıbrıs Postası, Kıbrıs, Havadis, Diyalog, Afrika
The cabinet on Monday speeded up its lockdown exit strategy, lifting remaining restrictions and giving the green light to almost all remaining sectors that had suspended operation for the past two months as part of Covid-19 measures.
Turkish Cypriot Deputy Prime Minister Kudret Özersay announced on Monday afternoon that hotels, casinos and betting offices could open on June 1 as long as they complied with hygiene rules.
Some dailies questioned why casinos were being opened as Turkish Cypriots are prohibited from gambling, particularly when the crossing points were closed and no tourists were currently arriving from abroad.
He said that children’s playgrounds and play areas could open as of May 22 and gyms as of May 27.
Tattoo parlours, arts and cultural activities such as theatres will also be allowed to resume as of June 1.
Beaches, restaurants, cafes, bars and patisseries will be opening for seated customers on Wednesday, May 20 in line with an earlier decision which was announced.
Özersay, however, said that picnic areas would remain closed for the time being.
He also said that a decision has yet to be produced for public transport.
Özersay said that if current conditions continued, weddings could also be permitted as of July 1.
Fire put out but the debate on acquiring a helicopter reignitesYenidüzen, Kıbrıs Postası, Kıbrıs, Havadis, Diyalog, Afrika
Internal Security, CBMs
Cooling efforts in the area between Tepebaşı (Diorios) and Kalklanlı (Kalochorio) ravaged by Sunday’s forest fire continued on Monday.
News that the oldest of the monumental olive trees, named “the Queen” believed to be 800 years old survived the fire came as some consolation.
Another of around the same age, “the King” was unfortunately destroyed.
Reportedly, 90 per cent of the around 2,000 olive trees were destroyed in the fire.
In a related development on Monday, police brought one person suspected of deliberately starting the fires in the area in for questioning.
Police also found large quantities of fire starters used for barbeque fires in the booth of his car.
Although some dailies reported that the suspect had confessed to starting at least one of the fires, there has been no official statement from police.
Earlier in the day, the Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources Dursun Oğuz expressed a different view whilst coordinating efforts in Güzelyurt (Morphou).
He said the fire which broke out at Kormacit (Kormatikis) on Sunday was most likely caused by a cigarette butt.
Oğuz added that the fire at Tepebaşı (Diorios) was most likely caused by power lines.
Speaking to Bayrak, Oğuz said that the damage caused by the fire, the biggest since the 1995 Beşparmak (Pentadactylos) mountain fire, was great.
He expressed regret that most of the monumental olive trees were also destroyed.
Oğuz also expressed his gratitude both to Turkey and the Greek Cypriot side for sending their firefighting aircraft to assist efforts to put out the fire,
He said he would be discussing with Turkish officials the possibility of having a fire-fighting helicopter to be stationed in the north during the summer months.
“We need a fire-fighting helicopter. There is no question about it but the cost and the maintenance expenses have been an issue. We had leased a helicopter in the past but it was also too costly for the north,” Oğuz noted.
He said it was difficult to say the extent of the damage caused by Sunday’s fire would have been smaller had the north had a fire-fighting helicopter.
Also on Monday, Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Ersin Tatar said the cabinet was determined to upgrade the north’s firefighting capabilities.
Addressing parliament on Monday, Tatar said a total of 125 firefighters, army personnel, civil defence workers and volunteers had battled the flames at Tepebaşı (Diorios).
He added that the “Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Committee” had convened with the agenda to discuss what it could do to upgrade the firefighting capabilities of the north and to amend the legislation accordingly.
Tatar expressed his hope that this will be the last time such a disaster is experienced and called on the public to be careful and refrain from actions which may increase the risk of fire.
The issue was also discussed at a cabinet meeting held on Monday in Güzelyurt (Morphou).
Following an initial assessment, it is believed more than 5,000 hectares of forest land covered with olive and pine trees were burnt to ashes.
Speaking to the TAK news agency, Halil Yarıcı, head of the Güzelyurt (Morphou) fire brigade, noted the Forestry Department will announce the final assessment report.
Yarıcı said it had been possible to bring the fire under control thanks to the fire safety roads.
He added fire flared up in various points but the firefighters immediately intervene to put out the fire.
In another development, Güven Bengihan, head of KTAMS (Turkish Cypriot Public Servants’ Union) said the union was expecting to see urgent and tangible steps by the cabinet towards purchasing a fire-fighting helicopter.
“The issue of purchasing a fire-fighting helicopter is always raised after a fire but forgotten shortly afterwards,” Bengihan argued.
He added it was disappointing to see none of the political parties considering the idea of purchasing one.
Responding to KTAMS’s allegations, former agriculture minister and Republican Turkish Party (CTP) MP Erkut Şahali said on Monday that purchasing a fire-fighting helicopter is not a realistic goal due to the current economic situation.
He also criticized the agriculture ministry for not preparing the seasonal forest-fire alert team in time.
Low-interest loan scheme launchedYenidüzen, Kıbrıs Postası, Kıbrıs, Havadis, Diyalog, Afrika
Internal Security, Economy
Olgun Önal, head of the Turkish Cypriot Association of Banks has announced a new loan scheme has been launched as of Monday to help businesses overcome the economic impact of the lockdown. The state will partially subsidise the interest of the loan. There will be a six-month deferral on payments and the total loan taken will be paid back in 15 months.
The banks have allocated ₺1bn (€135.5m) for the loan scheme with a 12 per cent interest rate. The state will cover three per cent of the interest and the loan-user will be subjected to paying a nine per cent interest on the amount taken.
Önal noted there are 18 banks are taking part in the loan scheme and there is no sector-based limitation on the applications.
“Any legal entity or registered company can apply for the loan,” Önal concluded.
Peaceplayers prepares support video for health workersYenidüzen, Kıbrıs Postası, Kıbrıs, Havadis, Diyalog, Afrika
Human Rights, Internal Security, CBMs
Peace Players-Cyprus has published a video in support of the health workers, who risked their lives against the Covid-19 pandemic on both sides of the divide, some dailies report on Tuesday.
The video was prepared with support from the Greek Cypriot Mayor of Nicosia Konstantinos Yorgacis and the Mayor of the Nicosia Turkish Municipality, Mehmet Harmancı.
The bicommunal organisation Peace Players, which is a member of an international network, continues its mediation and reconciliation programmes through online meetings every week.
The Peace Players operates on the principle that the “Children who play together can learn to live together.”
Tick the following link to watch the video https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2351350671635345