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The lack of aircraft in Cyprus was exposed during the Limassol fire

A major forest fire in Limassol’s national forest yesterday exposed a critical shortage of aerial firefighting resources.

The fire, caused by improperly disarmed fireworks during a quarry clearing, forced ground crews to bear the brunt of firefighting efforts.

The Republic of Cyprus currently has only one of the eight expected primary air weapons, with reinforcements not expected until June.

Administrative investigations have been launched to determine the cause of the fire and responsibility for the lack of air resources.

Agriculture Minister Maria Panayiotou acknowledged the weakness of air capabilities, stating: “This year’s tenders for air equipment rental were not fruitful. In previous years we had them in May, but at the moment it looks like we will have the additional planes in June.”

She highlighted the government’s decision to purchase ten of its own aircraft for the first time, instead of leasing them as was done by previous governments.

The initial firefighting involved one Department of Forests aircraft, later joined by police helicopters and British bases.

The Department of Forests currently has only one of the two aircraft it owns. The second is expected to arrive in Cyprus in July.

Two tenders are currently underway for the rental of four fire-fighting aircraft and two helicopters, and it is estimated that the procedures will be completed by early June. If the processes are successful, the Department of Forests will have eight primary aircraft.

In addition, there is an ongoing tender which has been referred to the Tenders Review Authority for the long-term supply of three firefighting aircraft. It is noted that British bases can provide a maximum of two helicopters.

Two police helicopters and two National Guard helicopters can be activated as secondary air assets.

In addition, under a bilateral agreement with Jordan, Cyprus can be supported with aerial firefighting assets if necessary. On high-risk days, assistance will be requested from Greece and Israel.

According to information, attempts to establish a permanent air presence from neighboring countries at the Andreas Papandreou air base have not been successful.

The issue of creating a European aerial firefighting base in Cyprus under the rescEU framework has been raised, but due to the mismanagement of the Ministry of Forestry, this has not been successful, writes philenews.

In 2021, Cyprus had six primary aerial firefighting assets, and by 2022 this number had increased to eight.

However, problems are observed every year, resulting in fewer aircraft available in the early months when they are most needed for the Republic of Cyprus.

Today, the country is dependent on air power from other countries in the event of a major forest fire, and it takes at least 48 hours for these countries to arrive in Cyprus and join the firefighting efforts.

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