A stretch of road in the Akamas national park where a Russian couple died at the weekend after their car went off the edge of the cliff has been closed, causing contention in the area.
The local community leader Andreas Christodoulou said he had urged authorities back in September to take action to make the road safer before someone was seriously hurt or killed after around ten accidents, although no fatalities, had occurred over the summer.
But Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis on Tuesday said the government was looking to improve the road as part of the operation of the Akamas national park.
“It will be improved so that it is accessible to visitors’ vehicles and park vehicles because there will be significant changes on how one can move inside the park,” he said.
The two Russian nationals, a 58-year-old man and his 48-year-old wife, were killed on Saturday when their rental car went off a cliff, and plunged around 30 metres below, close to the Baths of Aphrodite, a popular tourist attraction.
Christodoulou said that the entire stretch of road running from the Baths of Aphrodite to Fontana Amorosa and the edge of the Akamas – a length of around 7km – should be made safer. A motorcyclist plunged off the cliff in the same spot over the summer.
“No information was passed on to any of us about the road being closed and now officials’ phones are not being answered. It needs to be widened and a proper road surface added which is suitable for the environment,” Christodoulou said.
Following the latest accident, police and forestry department officials took the decision on Sunday to close the road.
On Tuesday, local mayor Yiotis Papachristofi said he would meet local community leaders and other concerned bodies to discuss what action would be taken.
“We want the road to be fixed and reopened, it’s used by the public in a state park and it needs to be made safe. The decision to just close it is not correct,” he said.
“The state has left it for too long without fixing it and this has caused it to be more dangerous. For the last two years, no repairs have been carried out at all.”
The mayor said the road is utilised by locals working in the area and by lots of tourists visiting one of the region’s most popular spots and heading into the Akamas.
“The road closure will have a huge negative effect on our community and on local tourism too,” he said.
The mayor said that although many people drive on the road, it has never been very good. The dirt track is hazardous, narrow in places, much of which runs along the cliff edge and is full of twists and turns, but the views and the surrounding countryside are breath taking.
Papachristofi said the route has been used regularly for more than 100 years while a recent study carried out by the forestry department found around 200,000 locals and tourists use the track every year.
“Previously, every year the forest department would use heavy machinery to pack the soil down and fill in any holes, but not recently,” he added.
The stretch of road which needs to be made safe would not be costly or difficult to start immediate improvement works, which is what is needed.
However, Andreas Evlavis of the Paphos Green party said the “‘road is not a registered road but a simple path and, as we have always said, it must be closed to the public and accessible only to the emergency services and vehicles of the forestry department”.
He added that although the track was gated and access not permitted up to about ten years ago the barrier was removed and the trail has since been used by unsuitable vehicles.
He noted that only four wheel drives can properly cope with the terrain.
“It has been a big risk for tourists and dangerous for them to use this track, no one cares,” he said.
Evlavis also hit back at criticism from various ministers and others that he said have hinted in tweets or comments that the Green party is to blame for the accident, as they have been against establishing the track as a road.
“To try and put responsibility of this tragedy on an illegal road on to us is stupid,” he said.