Authorities on Wednesday ruled out the possibility of arson behind the fire that broke out at the Vasiliko cement works and said it appears to have started from works carried out on site.
Following investigations into the cause of the fire by the fire service in cooperation with the police and Vasiliko cement works, fire service spokesman Andreas Kettis told the Cyprus Mail “there is a serious possibility the fire broke out from works being carried out on site.”
Kettis explained that firefighters estimate there was polyurethane powder, which is flammable, and came into contact with hot metals.
The fire service responded to the blaze which broke out at a warehouse with alternative fuels at 9.40am on Tuesday. Fire fighters were able to protect adjoining buildings which were at risk, while Larnaca district office sent a foam vehicle. The fire was contained within one hour.
Authorities said that quantities of polyurethane powder in sacks that were both inside and outside a storage area were burned.
VTTV Ltd which operates oil storage facilities nearby were also mobilised to intervene because of the large quantities of stored fuel near to where the fire started, Cyprus News Agency had reported.
Vasiliko cement works president Antonis Antoniou told the news agency that what had happened was being investigated with the crisis management team in the factory as there was combustion in a warehouse where solid fuel was stored.
Antoniou added that the crisis action plan was implemented, both by the business and also by the fire services.
“We managed in the record time of one hour to extinguish the fire which broke out on a particular fuel that requires special management,” he said.
However, nearby residents who have repeatedly protested the heavy industry being unfairly congregated in their area, said Tuesday’s fire confirms their safety fears.
Responding to public’s concerns, Antoniou said people were justifiably worried because of the nature of the material which produces a lot of black smoke when it burns. The spread of the fire was much smaller than the black cloud, but warehouse has sustained damage, he had said.
He added that the company was “environmentally very sensitive”.
“I would say that the fire did not affect the environment at all. The specific way of storage and the specific material are not harmful to the environment,” he said.
But Psevmatesmenos community leader Christodoulos Papachristou sounded the alarm, saying this was not the first time that a similar incident has occurred and there was widespread concern as people do not know how toxic the smoke could be.
“What we see every so often are fires breaking out and our area filling up with fumes and this is something we totally disagree with,” he said.
He noted that community leaders had recently warned the interior, energy, and agriculture ministers that there would be protests.
“This situation cannot continue,” he said.