March 2, 2024

Wildfires on the Greek island of Rhodes force hundreds of tourists to evacuate

Hundreds of tourists were forced to evacuate their hotels on the Greek island of Rhodes due to wildfires.

Due to the fire, which has been burning on the island for five days, authorities have been forced to order the evacuation of four locations, including two locations by the sea.

The wildfire was confined to the mountainous center of the island, but aided by winds, high temperatures and dry conditions, it spread on Saturday towards the east-central side of the island.

Local media reported that the fires reached three hotels, which had already been evacuated. Tourists said they had to walk for hours in the searing heat to try to escape the smoke.

Fire Service spokesman Yannis Artopios said on Saturday evening that SMS messages were sent to residents of four areas to evacuate – in two places they were told to move to the north-east and in two other places to the south-west.

Pine trees burning in a wildfire on the Greek island of Rhodes

(Eurokinissi/AFP/Getty)

Tourists posted videos of their evacuation on social media, describing the scenes and the experiences of their families.

“Currently stranded in #Rhodes escaping the wildfires away – left everything at the hotel and fled with towels across our faces”, said Paul Kalburgi on Twitter.

“The youngest told me he doesn’t want to die. There is no news from any authorities. Terrible situation here.”

Another Twitter user, John Hughes, complaint to their airline Jet2, saying: “Jet2 where are you? No help, contact or guidance.

“He had to walk 4 miles in the heat across dirt tracks in smoke and ash with a 5 year old. No possessions”.

Clouds of smoke from a forest fire rise into the sky on the island of Rhodes, Greece

(AP)

James Hall, a British tourist on the island of Rhodes, told Sky News: “It was really crazy this morning. We noticed smoke and ash coming down and got the government text, telling us to evacuate.

Fire trucks line up as firefighters try to put out a wildfire burning on Rhodes Island, Greece

(Reuters)

“And we walked south, as far as we could … we dragged our suitcases for two hours in the 40 degree heat.

“We have had no communication from easyJet or any of the airlines about what we should do. I think we are going to miss our plane.

“Honestly, it was weird, if you’re in a wheelchair or on crutches, the chances of getting out in a timely manner were slim.

“We were instructed to go to the beach but decided to keep walking. I wouldn’t imagine it’s particularly safe at the moment because of the amount of smoke.”

Firefighters try to extinguish a wildfire burning near Laerma, Rhodes Island

(Reuters)

Fire Service spokesman Yannis Artopios said more than 200 firefighters and 40 fire engines were 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 six miles long.

Three coast guard vessels, plus one from the military, were evacuating people from two beaches. Twenty private boats were also helping, with the Greek navy sending a vessel.

The fire in Rhodes is the worst of many blazes taking place across Greece.

The fire north-west of Athens and one near Sparta were subsiding, Mr Artopios said, although weather conditions, including temperatures set to reach 45C on Sunday and low humidity, meant there was a risk that more wildfires could break out.

Tourists stand on a beach after being evacuated during a forest fire on the island of Rhodes

(AP)

(Eurokinissi/AFP via Getty Images)

The Fire Service has designated almost the entire eastern part of the mainland, as well as the islands of Evia and Rhodes, as well as large areas in the south-west, as category five, the highest for the risk of fire outbreaks on Sunday.

There will be a brief respite in the heat wave on Monday, but it will return on Tuesday and could last until at least Friday, meteorologists said.

Firefighting forces from eight EU countries are operational or soon to arrive, Mr Artopios said.

Israel, Jordan and Turkey have also sent reinforcements, mostly aerial equipment.

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