EU: Cyprus should brace for worst

LARNACA – The European Union said yesterday that its member Cyprus should be prepared for a worsening humanitarian crisis in Lebanon despite fewer evacuees fleeing to the island to escape the war. EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said that although Brussels and the rest of the international community were hoping to soon see a cease in hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah militants, they should brace for worse-case scenarios. «We should be prepared for scenarios which are not what we hope the situation will be,» Dimas told Reuters in an interview during a visit to inspect the island’s needs. «It’s better to be prepared, not only having humanitarian assistance ready, but also aircraft and other ways of transferring people.» The focus was shifting from handling evacuations to sending humanitarian aid to the estimated 800,000 people there displaced by the violence, he said. Israel’s air strikes have killed at least 410 people in Lebanon, the vast majority civilians, and driven hundreds of thousands from their homes since July 12. EU states and other countries have criticized the bombing as an excessive use of force, but Israel says it is necessary to stop Hezbollah rocket attacks which have killed 42 and caused mass evacuations in its north. Yesterday, hundreds of exhausted Australians, Canadians and Americans told of «horrific bombing» as they filed off ships in Cyprus, although numbers have fallen off from the thousands per day which flooded the country over a week. Dimas praised Nicosia for refusing to buckle as evacuees swamped its airports and hotels in the peak holiday season. «Forty-thousand people came from Lebanon to Cyprus and 30,000 have left,» he said during a tour of port facilities in Larnaca. «This shows that there was a great problem.»