Six additional aircraft rented by Cyprus to help combat forest fires are set to arrive in the next few weeks, Agriculture Minister Maria Panayiotou said on Tuesday.

Speaking on CyBC radio, Panayiotou said that four planes are set to arrive from Australia and two from Latin America.

She added that there were also contacts with neighbouring countries to bring aircraft to Cyprus in case of emergency.

Panayiotou also thanked firefighters for their work in helping extinguish recent difficult blazes, in a comment on sluggishness to react to fires.

Commenting on criticism of firefighters, the association of firefighters (Sypyk) said that “on the occasion of people’s allegations of obstruction and inconsistency on the part of the Fire Service during the recent fires in the Limassol District and specifically in Ayios Sylas, it expresses its sympathy and support to the victims and underlines that the primary objective and duty of every firefighter in every operation is to save lives and protect the property of citizens.

“In this fire, the adverse conditions prevailing, with strong winds, difficulty in access, scattered garbage, etc., made it humanly impossible for firefighters to operate simultaneously in the entire area where the fire was raging, to extinguish it. During each incident, a risk assessment is carried out so that an operational plan can be drawn up and priorities can be set,” they added.

Sypyk also said that on a huge front, as was the case with the Ayios Sylas fire last week, it was not possible for firefighters to know the exact location of the outbuildings and businesses involved.

Earlier on Tuesday another fire had broken out in the Gerasa area of Limassol, while three fires were reported a day ago.

Last week, arsonists also set a forest fire, which burnt five square kilometres.