ATHENS, Greece (AP) – A large fire burning on the Greek island of Rhodes for a fifth day has forced authorities to order the evacuation of four locations, including two seaside resorts.
In the previous days, the wildfire was confined to the mountainous center of the island, but with the help of winds, very high temperatures and dry conditions, it spread on Saturday towards the coast on the east-central side of the island. Local media reported that the fires reached three hotels, whose clients had already been evacuated.
The spokesman of the fire department, Yannis Artopios said on Saturday evening that SMS messages were sent to residents of four areas to evacuate – in two areas they were told to move to the north-east and, in two other places, to the south-west.
Artopios said more than 200 firefighters and 40 fire engines were operating on the ground, assisted by three planes and five helicopters. The force includes 31 firefighters from Slovakia, with five fire engines.
The main front of the fire is a triangle, with two of its points near the sea and one in the mountains. On maps, each side of the triangle appears to be more than 10 kilometers (six miles) long.
Three coast guard vessels, plus one from the military, were evacuating people from two beaches. Twenty private boats were helping and the Greek navy was sending a vessel.
The fire in Rhodes was only one, the most dangerous, of them quite active throughout Greece, Artopius said.
The fire northwest of Athens and one near Sparta was subsiding, he said, although the conditions, including temperature set to reach 45 C (113 F) on Sunday and low humidity (below 15%), which means the risk is not there and more wildfires could break out.
The fire department has designated almost the entire eastern part of the mainland, as well as the islands of Evia and Rhodes as well as large swaths in the southwest, as Category 5, the highest for the risk of fire outbreaks on Sunday. Another large part of the country is designated in Category 4, very high risk.
There will be a short break in the heat wave on Monday, but it will resume on Tuesday and could last until at least Friday, meteorologists have warned.
Firefighting forces from eight European Union countries are operating or arriving soon, Artopios said. Israel, Jordan and Turkey have also sent reinforcements, mostly aerial equipment.