By Nathan Morley in Nicosia
According to police, the fire started on Saturday near Arakapas, northeast of Limassol, where flames quickly engulfed several properties, triggering mandatory evacuations and road closures.
By evening - fed by gale-force winds – the blaze expanded and roared through parched scrub-land threatening more villages in the foothills of the Troodos Mountains.
The thick brown smoke cast a dark pall over the island, and stretched over 100 kilometres over the eastern Mediterranean.
As dawn broke on Sunday, civilian volunteers joined fire-fighting teams to combat the flames, assisted by water dropping aircraft from Israel, Greece and Britain’s Royal Air Force.
Also early Sunday, the charred remains of four Egyptian farm workers were found in a mountainous area outside the village of Odos, close to where the first blaze ignited.
Speaking to journalists, Minister of the Interior, Nicos Nouris, said the island was experiencing ‘the most devastating fire since the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus both in material damage and, unfortunately, in human casualties’.
Although fires char hundreds of acres every year, Charalambos Alexandrou, director of the Department of Forests, echoed Nouris saying it was the was the worst fire ever in the history of Cyprus.
He added the fire was brought under control but efforts were currently focused on preventing the blaze from crossing over into a pine forest at a higher elevation. There are fears that shifting winds threatened to accelerate the flames.
Whilst investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the blaze, police confirmed an elderly man - suspected of burning shrubs- is being questioned
Emergency services have fought several fires in the past few days as temperatures reached over 40C on the island.