June 24, 2024

Greece fires latest: Rhodes and Corfu travel advice changed for UK tourists as wildfires now hit Portugal

Plane fighting wildfires in Evia crashes

The UK foreign office has updated its guidance for people visiting Greece, advising those travelling to areas affected due to wildfire to make sure they had “appropriate insurance”.

“If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance,” the foreign office said, adding that the insurance should “cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency”.

It comes as 20,000 people had to leave homes and hotels in Rhodes over the weekend as the inferno that began a week ago spread, while over 2,000 holidaymakers returned home by plane on Monday.

After the blaze in Rhodes prompted “the biggest evacuation” in Greek history, civil protection authorities warned of “extreme risk” of wildfires on the island of Crete, while around 2,500 people have already been evacuated from Corfu, which has been enduring dozens of blazes.

Meanwhile, Croatia and Portugal are battling wildfires overnight, with hundreds of firefighters pressed into action.

The wildfire in Portugal began at 5pm local time in a mountainous area that is part of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park. It prompted more than 600 firefighters and water-bombing planes to put out the blaze but had to stop operating during the night.

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Wildfire burns metres away from cars driving on Italy highway

A video shared on 25 July shows a wall of flames lashing over the edge of a highway and threatening motorists near Priolo Gargallo, in the province of Syracuse, on Sicily’s east coast.

Dozens of wildfires are raging across the Italian island, prompting evacuations and the temporary closure of the airport in Sicily’s capital, Palermo.

Wildfire burns metres away from cars driving on Italy highway

A video shared on 25 July shows a wall of flames lashing over the edge of a highway and threatening motorists near Priolo Gargallo, in the province of Syracuse, on Sicily’s east coast. Dozens of wildfires are raging across the Italian island, prompting evacuations and the temporary closure of the airport in Sicily’s capital, Palermo. The country’s Department of Civil Protection on Tuesday reported its air fleet was continuing to battle multiple fires in the region. They said pilots would be out for as long as possible, though strong winds were proving a challenge.

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar26 July 2023 08:00

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Italian airport limits flights after wildfires force temporary closure

The Palermo Airport in Italy is limiting the number of flights departing after raging wildfires forced the airport to announce a temporary closure on Monday.

The blaze started above the town of Cinisi before reaching the edge of the airport, forcing it to shut operations until 10am BST yesterday.

The airport has reopened its operations, but warned that limited flights would be departing due to weather conditions being monitored.

“The airport in Palermo has reopened: at the moment only a limited number of departing flights will be allowed. For arrivals, weather conditions are being monitored,” the airport authorities tweeted.

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar26 July 2023 07:45

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A ‘miracle’ no lives have been lost in Rhodes, volunteer says

It is “a miracle” that no lives have so far been lost in Rhodes, where civilians have fought tirelessly against wildfires for seven days, a volunteer has said.

Speaking to The Independent from an evacuation centre in Rhodes late on Tuesday night, Sofia, a 35-year-old volunteer from the north of the island praised the “huge” effort of those who have mobilised to help stranded tourists and to battle against the fires in the south.

At that centre alone, around 150 people have signed up to help, she said. “Everyone [wants to help], especially young kids.”

Pointing to a fellow volunteer, she added: “Look at this kid. He is here every morning from 8 o’clock. He won’t leave. And there’s other kids in the van across the street just waiting here, they won’t go away.”

Praising civilians for driving the evacuation efforts, she said: “The civilians brought their boats and their cars and dropped people here in safety. And the volunteer civilians are in the first line of the front at the fire. They are digging holes, they are cutting trees.”

“There are hundreds” of civilians battling the fires, she said. “They haven’t slept in seven days, and they’re all young people. All my friends are there right now. It’s a miracle that there [has not been] a loss. Up until now, [when] two pilots were killed today.”

Andy Gregory in Rhodes26 July 2023 07:34

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‘I want to help them to feel like they’re home,’ says young Rhodes volunteer

Vasillis, a 20-year-old PE student in Athens who is home in Rhodes for the summer, has been volunteering at the evacuation centre which has housed hundreds of British tourists in recent days.

“A lot of people didn’t know what to do, where they were going. They evacuated their hotels, they thought all was over. I think they found a home, at least, food, drinks, and they were hopeful to continue their holidays,” he told The Independent late on Tuesday night.

“All the volunteers gave their whole heart to help. They were all patient, they helped everyone from the bottom of their hearts.”

Praising the “brave” volunteers who were helping with efforts to put out the fires still raging in the island’s south, he added that they had “a lot of love for their town, for Rhodes”.

Asked about his choice to remain at the centre over the coming days, he said: “I think it’s my character and I want to help people even if there are [only] a few, like [tonight’s] four people. For me it’s the same, even if it’s 400 or four people I want to help them to feel like they’re home.”

Vasillis said those volunteering have “a lot of love for their town, for Rhodes”

(Andy Gregory/The Independent)

Andy Gregory in Rhodes26 July 2023 07:02

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Satellite images show how wildfires spread to engulf large parts of Greek islands

More evacuations were ordered as the week-long wildfire on the Greek resort island of Rhodes tore past defences due to strong winds, leaving local residents in scrambles.

The latest evacuations were ordered after at least 19,000 people, mostly tourists, were moved in buses and boats as the fire reached resorts on Rhodes’s southeastern coast.

Satellite images revealed the extent of devastation caused by the wildfire which has charred the central part of the island, burning down homes, cars and livestock.

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar26 July 2023 06:45

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Evacuation centre which housed hundreds remains open in case of future need

Last night, The Independent visited an evacuation centre in Rhodes which volunteers said played home to some 800 people fleeing the wildfires on Saturday.

While the large basketball court lay largely empty save for a handful of beds occupied by a group of volunteers who had travelled from Athens on Tuesday, citizens who have been helping to run the centre have vowed to keep it open in case of further evacuations this week.

A sizeable amount of donated foodstuffs and other essentials were gathered at the entrance, ready to disperse if necessary.

Describing the huge outpouring of support from those in the local community wanting to help, one volunteer pointed The Independent to a stack of A4 paper several centimetres thick with the details of people who had offered to help.

The centre is also used as a distribution point for people to pick up food, water and medicines for those affected by the fires in the south of the island.

This evacuation centre in Rhodes has housed hundreds of British holidaymakers in recent days

(Andy Gregory/The Independent)

(Andy Gregory/The Independent)

Andy Gregory in Rhodes26 July 2023 06:30

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Firefighters and locals battle wildfire in Portugal

A police officer and a local resident throw buckets of water during a wildfire in Cascais

(REUTERS)

A firefighter watches the progression of a wildfire as it approaches Zambujeiro village in Cascais

(AFP via Getty Images)

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar26 July 2023 06:00

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Firefighters scramble to put out wildfire in Portugal

Hundreds of Portuguese firefighters aided by local residents scrambled yesterday to put out flames sweeping across a national park near the popular holiday destination of Cascais.

The wildfire began at 5pm local time in a mountainous area that is part of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, which covers around 145sqkm of land and is located west of the capital Lisbon.

More than 600 firefighters and 189 vehicles were pressed into action after the fire erupted. Water-bombing planes also battled the blaze but had to stop operating as night set in.

At one of the villages affected by the fire, desperate local residents took matters into their own hands as they tried to protect their homes with buckets of water and hosepipes, as strong winds fanned the flames.

“The fear now is that it will get to the houses,” Ines Figueiredo, 34, told Reuters. “We try to help as much as we can with buckets (of water)… but it’s not worth much.”

EU data shows Portugal, which has so far escaped the worst impacts of the European heatwave, is usually one of the bloc’s worst-hit countries by wildfires.

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar26 July 2023 05:40

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Are Greece wildfires caused by climate change?

Wildfires have raged across Greece for several days, triggering large-scale evacuations, rescue flights for British tourists and warnings from officials that things may yet get worse.

While the cause of the blazes has not officially been identified, local authorities have suggested at least some could have been the work of arsonists.

But climate science and fire risk specialists say it’s undeniable that rising temperatures and prolonged heatwaves mean the fires in the Mediterranean country have spread faster and burned over larger areas.

Maanya Sachdeva has more.

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar26 July 2023 05:20

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Wildfire rages in Italy, burning down house and cars on its way

Flames rage after a wildfire broke out in Puglia, Italy

(Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

A wildfire burns in the Sicilian village of Romitello, near Palermo, Italy

(REUTERS)

Aerial firefighting continues as teams conduct extinguishing works by land and air to control wildfires across in Reggio Calabria, Italy

(Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar26 July 2023 04:45

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