Police on Friday issued a last minute alert against the use of illegal fireworks while also warning motorists not to risk drink driving over the Easter break.
Speaking to The Cyprus Weekly, police spokesman Andreas Angelides reminded that a campaign to warn parents and children about the dangers of illegal fireworks was launched at the beginning of holy week.
“Because of firework injuries Easter is considered a very dangerous holiday. Our main aim this weekend is to prevent casualties.”
The spokesman confirmed there will be increased police presence around bonfire sites in all towns with officers on the lookout for illegal fireworks and other criminal activity.
“There has been a big effort this year to coordinate our safety measures with all municipalities around the island and like every Easter we will be working closely with the fire services.”
Police have so far seized some 8,000 illegal firecrackers in the run-up to Easter with the majority confiscated from areas around the mixed village of Pyla in the Larnaca district.
During the early hours of Friday two youths were arrested in Larnaca after they were caught transporting a large quantity of illegal firecrackers in their car.
The suspects aged 18 and 19 were stopped by officers for speeding at around 12.20am on Tasos Papadopoulos Avenue. A search of their vehicle uncovered 680 industrial firecrackers that appear to have been manufactured in Turkey. The youths were charged and released to appear in court at a later date.
Famagusta police officers uncovered a box in an open area in Liopetri containing 31 homemade fireworks and some 100 industrial firecrackers. Two youths aged 14 and 16 were spotted loitering around the area and are being questioned in connection with the seizure. At around the same time in Paphos police seized a sizeable stash of firework building materials.
Acting on a tip-off, officers inspected a park in the Lempa community and found a carefully hidden rucksack that contained 26 metal pipes, two fire extinguishers, several fuses, a small quantity of brimstone and five kg of gunpowder.
According to police statistics over the last 10 years 95 people have been injured, some seriously, and one death has been caused due to illegal fireworks.
Angelides sought to remind that all fireworks, with the exception of sparklers and trick noisemakers, are illegal in Cyprus without a permit.
“Many of the firecrackers we seize are illegally manufactured and contain a mixture of materials that can be highly explosive. Possession of any type of firework is therefore considered a serious criminal offence which carries a maximum penalty of up to ten years imprisonment.”
Traffic police chief Demetris Demetriou confirmed that an annual campaign to stop people from getting behind the wheel when they could be over the limit will continue until Tuesday.
“We are expecting over 10,000 cars to be on the roads over Easter and we are taking appropriate measures to prevent accidents and ensure the smooth flow of traffic.”
He urged the public to drink responsibly and warned that alco checks will be conducted in all towns during all times of day and night.
“Drink driving along with speeding are the number one road killers and we are therefore asking the public not to not consume alcohol if they intend to drive.”
He added that traffic officers will be distributing candles and pamphlets to drivers at busy intersections about the consequences of drink driving.
“The motto of our road safety campaign this Easter is break eggs and nothing else.”