Minister Alexis Vafeades said on Wednesday that he expected bus companies to inform him about when fire extinguishing equipment for their vehicles will arrive.

On Tuesday, he said that a three-member committee of experts has been established to evaluate the various available systems which have been submitted to the government for potential use.

The committee also evaluated proposals submitted by bus companies, and on Wednesday Vafeades said that the committee approved most of the companies’ proposals.

“Yesterday the competent committee had reviewed and approved all four companies’ proposals. The good news is that they include equipment that can be brought in by plane, which means its arrival will be shorter, but the final news we’ll know by noon,” he said.

He noted that the situation remains the same with the school buses. “We are waiting for the approval of 29 buses of a subcontracted company, which have an automatic fire extinguishing system, but a certificate of good operation had to be submitted. Once we have that we will allow them to enter traffic,” he said.

The minister clarified that until the mechanisms are introduced, the 570 buses will remain immobilised. He added that another 21 buses have arrived recently for the intercity routes, and these are expected to be registered and put into service on Wednesday or Thursday.

However, regarding the major problems with school buses and the basic service in Paphos, Vafeades said that he believed there would only be an improvement with the arrival of the equipment.

Speaking at a press briefing, government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis said that an investigator had been also appointed to examine why the fire extinguishing system had not been installed on the school buses.

“There is an inconvenience and that is obvious. At the same time there was no other way to deal with the issue, especially when it comes to the safety of our students,” he said.

In comments at the House education committee, the director of secondary education at the ministry, Kyprianos Louis said the education ministry is dealing with the issue of absences resulting from the inability of secondary school students to go to their schools due to the ban on buses running school routes.

He added that regarding the possible gaps that will arise for the students, the current data will be studied, and they will act accordingly with supplementary lessons.

Louis said that on the first day the absences reached 14 per cent, i.e. 6,000 children out of the total number of 43,000, on the second day a decrease of 8 per cent was observed in the districts of Paphos, Larnaca, and Famagusta, while there was stability in Nicosia.

“This may be due to parents bearing the burden of transporting students but also to the fact that bus operators following the intervention of the ministry of transport are complying with the installation of this particular safety device,” Louis said.

On students living in rural areas that have been affected, he said that the transport ministry is focusing on the matter to provide a solution.

Schools and commuters descended into chaos on Monday, after more than 500 buses were taken out of service amid safety fears with parents and workers complaining of the inadequate warning which left many unable to make alternate arrangements.

Around 6,000 students were affected with hundreds turning up late or missing school, while in Paphos no buses at all were in operation.