<% vol = 14 number = 4 prevlink = 197 nextlink = 204 titolo = "FIRE DISASTERS IN CYPRUS IN THE LAST DECADE - MANAGEMENT AND CONSEQUENCES" volromano = "XIV" data_pubblicazione = "December 2001" header titolo %>

Mantas N.

Apollonion Private Hospital, Strovolos, Cyprus

SUMMARY. This article reports on the incidence and severity of fire disasters in Cyprus, the third largest island in the Mediterranean, in the last decade. Various aspects are considered: the location of forest fires, their frequency, fire-fighting facilities, burn centres, etc. The medical service in Cyprus is equipped to handle all burn victims, even in cases of mass burns.

The aim of this article is to present the incidence and severity of fire disasters in Cyprus. Plastic surgeons in general are aware of the dramatic consequences of burn injury and they have the ability to inform people and authorities about them. Our interest in fire disaster statistics will help us to understand how these disasters happen and will contribute to public efforts to introduce prevention programmes. Burn prevention is a must and should be the first step in burn management.

Cyprus is the third largest island of the Mediterranean Sea, located at its eastern end. Its population is about 750,000, evenly distributed in the island’s six districts. There is one main city in each district as well as many smaller towns and villages (Fig. 1).

<% createTable "Fig 1 ","Cyprus - statistic.",";AREA;9300 km2@;POPULATION;750000","",4,300,true %>

The forest area covers a small part of the island, on the two large mountains of Troodos and Pentadactylos. Between these two mountains stretches broad flat countryside used as farmland for wheat, olive-trees, citrus fruit, and other fruit and vegetable cultures. The rainy period, if any, is short (November to March) and is followed by a long dry period. For this reason all the farmland area is covered by dry vegetation between May and October.

Another interesting feature of Cyprus is the fact that the majority of the buildings are less than 30 years old (there was a massive reconstruction programme after the war in the summer of 1974). As a result the houses and large buildings conform with the requirements of modern legislature on safety, rapid evacuation in fires, and gas and electricity supply.

Fig. 2 shows the distribution of forest and farmland fires in the last decade (1990-99). The annual burned area is given in hectares - the total area for the period in question was almost 8000 h. These figures are remarkable, considering the area of the whole island. We can note that the area of burned private farmland is much greater than that of state forest land. This is probably because private property is easily accessible to the people who work there. In addition, during the long dry period, most of the farmland area is covered by dry vegetation.

<% createTable "Fig 2","Forest fires for the period 1990-99.",";1,4Area burned in hectares@;Year;Number of fires;State forest land;Private and other state land;Total@;1990;11;9;305;314@;1991;14;27;5;32@;1992;18;9;0,9@;1993;16;69;1275;1344@;1994;35;178;843;1021@;1995;24;70;239;309@;1996;20;116;168;284@;1997;19;167;230;397@;1998;19;566;3490;4056@;1999;20;3;1;4@;Total;196;1214;6556;7770","Notes: (a) One hectare equals 7.5 donums (k˜) (b) The cost to reforest a burned area of one hectare is estimated at CY1,000, or US$ 1,700.",4,300,true %> <% immagine "Fig. 3","gr0000031.gif","Fire disasters.",230 %>
<% immagine "Fig. 4","gr0000032.jpg","Forest fires for the period 1990-1999 - numbers of fires.",230 %> <% immagine "Fig. 5","gr0000033.jpg","Forest fires for the period 1990-1999 - area burned.",230 %>
<% immagine "Fig. 6","gr0000034.jpg","Forest fires for the period 1886-1999 - number of fires",230 %> <% immagine "Fig. 7","gr0000035.jpg","Forest fires for the period 1886-1999 - area burned",230 %>
<% immagine "Fig. 8","gr0000036.gif","Distribution of fire disasters by tipe.",230 %> <% immagine "Fig. 9","gr0000037.gif","Distribution of fire disasters 1993-1999 by place of occourence.",230 %>
<% immagine "Fig. 10","gr0000038.gif","Damage in 1998 (x $US 1000).",230 %> <% immagine "Fig. 11","gr0000039.gif","Damage in 1999 (x $US 1000).",230 %>
<% immagine "Fig. 12","gr0000040.gif","Burn victims in 1999.",230 %>

The cost of reafforesting a burned area of 1 h is $US 1700, and the overall cost in the last decade was about 13,000,000 $US. Reafforestation in an island with limited rainfall is not easy and large burned areas may never in fact be reafforested. Fig. 3 shows the incidence of fires in forests and agriculture farmland, as reported by the fire service department. The number of farmland fires was dramatically greater than that of forest fires.

In Figs. 4 and 5 we can see the incidence of forest fires over the last decade. The number of fires was not high but the area burned was not always related to this number. In 1992 we had a limited burned area with a high number of cases, in 1995 we had many fires and a smaller burned area, and in 1997-98 we had a large burned area with the same number of fires.

Starting from over a century ago, in 1886, there was an increasing rate of forest fires; from 1930 to 1955 the rate was stable, and in the last 40 years the number of fires has decreased (Figs. 6, 7). The burned area in most cases was less than 2000 h, except for four high peaks in 1890, 1915, 1955, and 1974. The last two peaks could be correlated with war conditions. A good reason for the decrease in the number and severity of forest fires is the dramatic reduction in total forest area - “the less you have the less chance to burn it.” Another contributing factor is the presence of seasonal fire-fighting personnel who man rural and forest fire service stations and observation posts and are able to detect early forest fires and raise the alarm.

Industrial, civil, and vehicle fire incidents have been stable over the last decade (Fig. 8). In Cyprus there is little heavy industry, for which reason we do not have a large number of this type of fire. All industry is concentrated in areas away from towns where preventive and safety measures are observed. Civil and vehicle fires occur more often, almost one a day, but fortunately these are minor cases. In large apartment buildings special precautionary measures facilitate rapid evacuation and there is water distribution on all floors.

The diagram in Fig. 9 shows the distribution of the places of occurrence of fires in the period 1993-99. We can note the large number of farmland fires and the limited number of forest and industrial fires.

The economic damage to private and public property is shown in Figs. 10 and 11. The reason for the very high level of industrial damage in 1999 was a fire in a large milk processing factory in Lefkosia.

Fortunately the number of burn victims in these fire disasters was low. This is due to the fact that the large cities are not densely populated, safety regulations are strict, and there is no heavy industry in Cyprus (Fig. 12).

Figs. 13-17 present the causes of fires in 1999. One should note the high incidence of cases caused by the burning of dry vegetation (most of the cases of unknown origin are to be included in this category). Domestic cooking is also responsible for a large number of civil fires.

The fire service department is a branch of the Cyprus police force. It employs a large number of permanent and seasonal staff, manning about 46 fire stations (Fig. 18). The significant role of the air force was appreciated in June 2000. An extensive forest and farmland fire appeared to be difficult to manage by conventional fire forces and as a consequence we had to call for international support, which we received from Greece and Israel. The fire service is a well-organized department capable of facing the vast majority of all types of fire disaster in Cyprus.

There is only one plastic surgery and burn centre department, in a public hospital in Lefkosia. The majority of severely burned patients are treated in this centre. Since distances between towns in Cyprus are short, the existence of one central burn centre is sufficient. In addition burn cases can be treated in four large private clinics where plastic surgeons practise. The medical service is capable and efficient and can handle all burn victims in any kind of fire incident, even mass casualties (Fig. 19).

<% createTable "Fig 13 ","Causes of farmaland fires in 1999 (2370).",";Unknown;1415@;Dry vegetation burning;1210@;Smoking;75@;Military exercises;30","",4,300,true %><% createTable "Fig 14 ","Causes of industrial fires in 1999 (43)",";Machines overheating;7@;Short circuit;20@;Uknown;80","",4,300,true %><% createTable "Fig 15 ","Causes of forest fires 1999 (3).",";Unknown;3","",4,300,true %><% createTable "Fig 16 ","Causes of civil fires in 1999 (329)",";Fuel leakage;40@;Short circuit;85@;Smoking;10@;Incendaries;24@;Uknown;60","",4,300,true %><% createTable "Fig 17 ","Causes of civil fires in 1999 (314).",";Liquid gas;40@;Overheating of oil;150@;Short circuit;37@;Smoking;27@;Uknown;60","",4,300,true %><% createTable "Fig 18 ","Fire service.",";Permanent staff;602@;Part-time staff;104@;Seasonal staff;140@;Fire engines;74@;Fire stations (rural+urban);24@;Forest fire stations;22@;No air force;/","",4,300,true %>


RESUME L' Auteur considers Yincidence et la severite des desastres par feu a Chypre. la troisieme ile plus Qrande de la mer Mediterranee, pendant 1a periods 1990-99. Divers aspects sont presenter: les Liem on les incendies des forets se produisent. lour frequence, 1es services anti-incendie. les centres des bnilures. etc. Le service medical a Chypre a la capacite de traiter toutes les vicrimes des incendies. meme dans les brulures en masse.

<% riquadro "Acknowledgements. I have to thank Mr Giorgos Karidis, former Fire Service Chief, and Mr Alecos Christodoulou, Chief of the Forest Department of the Cyprus Ministry of Agriculture, for the assistance and information they gave me.

This paper was received on 17 April 2001.

Address correspondence to: Nicos Mantas, M.D., Plastic Surgeon, Apollonion Private Hospital, Lefkotheou Avenue, 2054 Strovolos, Cyprus. Tel.: +357-2-350022; fax: +357-2-355131; e-mail: n.mantas@cytanet.com.cy" %>

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