The forestry department said on Sunday that a “red alert” for fires continued to be in effect as thousands of people left the city to picnic in rural areas.

The department is urging the public to refrain from activities that could cause a fire. Cooking fires are permitted at designated picnic sites.

According to authorities, excursion sites in the Troodos forest were full by midday whereas in Paphos, although there was high turnout, it was lower than that of Troodos at around 50 per cent of capacity a various picnic sites.

In the Nicosia district, the site at Kornos was the most popular, being at 70 per cent of capacity.

The forestry department said anyone who sees smoke or fire inside or near forests should contact the nearest forest station or call the department at 1407 or the Fire Service at 112.

Lighting a fire without a permit is punishable with a fine and/or imprisonment – up to €50,000 or up to ten years in jail.