With the arrival of two firefighting helicopters from neighbouring Jordan, Cyprus now has up to eight airborne firefighting means at its disposal, a senior official said on Tuesday.

Andreas Christou, acting director of the Department of Forests, was responding to clarifications sought by the Cyprus Mail.

A day earlier, the agriculture minister announced that two helicopters with a total of 18 crew members had arrived from Jordan with the aim of boosting Cyprus’ firefighting capabilities ahead of the summer.

The minister said the aircraft and crew would remain here at least until aircraft to-be leased by the Cypriot government arrived on the island.

We sought to learn when the new airborne means would be leased. But Christou said this was an unknown.

All he could confirm is that the tender process for leasing is underway. This concerns four airplanes and two helicopters.

“Given the fluid nature of tenders processes, I can’t give you an ETA,” the official commented.

At the moment, Cyprus on its own can muster up to six airborne means to fight fires – one with the police force, one to two with the army, one to two with the British Bases, and one with the Department of Forests. They are all fully operational. The number six is the best-case scenario.

Of the six, one is an airplane (the Department of Forests), the rest are helicopters.

Adding the two Jordanian helicopters, that brings the total number up to eight.

Asked whether this fleet is considered sufficient, Christou said yes.

“Last year, for example, we had seven airborne means altogether.”

In addition to the planned leases, the government intends to purchase up to ten firefighting aircraft over a five-year span.

Regarding the acquisition (purchase) of additional aircraft, last month Christou said that two tenders were underway. For the first tender, concerning airplanes, the deadline for submission of bids expired on April 15. For the second, involving helicopters, the cutoff date for submission of bids was set for the end of April.

In early April, during a discussion in parliament, officials revealed that Cyprus had no firefighting aircraft available at the time. A forestry department official told stunned MPs that the eight aircraft under the forestry department’s service were still being repaired.