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Bus carrying students catches fire in Aglandjia (Update 2)

Bus fire, burned bus, transport ministry, blaze, Aglandjia
File photo: A fire broke out on a bus carrying students

By Iole Damaskinos and Jonathan Shkurko

A fire broke out in a school bus while in motion at the Filoxenia roundabout on Aglandjia Avenue, on Friday morning.

The bus was transporting forty students, who were safely evacuated after a driver trailing the bus alerted those on board that smoke was emanating from the vehicle’s rear.

Speaking on state broadcaster’s CyBC’s morning programme Minister of Transport Alexis Vafeades said the incident was serious and would be thoroughly investigated by the authorities.

He recalled that this was the fourth incident with public buses-including those transporting pupils- in the past several months, and while no injuries had been suffered to date, the matter of faulty, old, or badly maintained public buses must be rectified.

In May a bus on a school trip lost a wheel and skidded on the highway causing panic among students. More recently in October, a fire broke out in a bus in Ayia Napa, while in August a fire broke out in an intercity bus in Limassol.

The problem with engine fires is that they are electromechanical and any faults are not detected through routine state-required checks, such as MOTs, the minister said.

“The responsibility to check for electrical faults falls entirely on the bus companies but this does not detract from the ministry’s commitment to ensuring public safety,” he noted.

According to the fire department, the fire indeed broke out in the engine compartment and spread internally.

The Acropolis fire station responded with two fire engines and brought the situation under control shortly after 7.30am.

The causes of the fire are under investigation by the police and the electromechanical services. A follow-up investigation will be taken up by the competent state agencies onsite, after police findings are forwarded to his ministry, Vafeades said.

Meanwhile, the Cypriot Student Coordinating Committee (PSEM) also expressed its concerns for the issue in a statement released later on Friday.

“The recurrent accidents, culminating in today’s incident, confirm our worries about the improper maintenance and inspection of buses leased by the state for student transportation,” PSEM said.

“These concerns were previously voiced during a relevant session of the House transport committee meeting to which we were invited. How many accidents will it take for our concerns to be heeded?”

The student body also slammed the education ministry for having ignored a request to meet and discuss such issues.

“We now publicly demand this meeting, especially in light of today’s incident,” PSEM continued.

“The education ministry took charge of a crumbling sector, and we granted it time to manage the chaos. However, this should not be perceived as an open-ended carte blanche.

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