May 27, 2024

Which Greek islands are on fire? Everything you need to know

Wildfires have been raging across several cities in Greece including Rhodes, Corfu and Evia. Authorities have issued new evacuations for areas close to two central Greek cities after two people were killed.

People living in areas around Volos and Lamia have been told to move to safety as the country remains in a state of extreme heat. In the last 24 hours, 61 wildfires erupted across the country, the fire brigade said.

Officials also ordered the evacuation of many communities in the hard-hit area of Magnesia, a coastal area north of Athens.

Fires in Rhodes forced thousands of people to leave their homes in the “biggest evacuation” in Greek history, as holidaymakers said they walked for miles in scorching heat to reach safety.

“The smoke was coming. So we all set off on foot. I walked 12 miles (19 km) in this heat yesterday. It took me four hours,” British tourist Chris Freestone told the Reuters News Agency.

112 Greece, the Emergency Communications Service has put out protection guidelines for those in the country. The guidelines have been issued to help those during a fire and before a fire.

As the wildfires rage on, here is everything you need to know about how a wildfire evacuation protocol works

What is a wildfire?

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) describe a wildfire as: “Any unplanned and uncontrolled wildland fire that, regardless of ignition source, may require suppression response or other action according to agency policy.”

How long does a wildfire last?

The National Operational Guidance (NOG) has said a wildfire will burn over a period of time in areas that provide the space over which the fire can move.

The NOG said the behaviour of the wildfire is dependent on a number of variables, these include: “its movement across the landscape” which “brings instability within the fire environment caused by changes to the available fuel” as well as “its combustibility and arrangement, the shape of the topography and the effects of weather.”

According to the Guinness World Records, the longest wildfire was the Chinchaga Fire in 1950 which grew out of control and ended five months later on 31 October in Alberta – in that time, it burned approximately 1.2 million hectares (3 million acres) of boreal forest.

What to do if your home is in or near a forest?

112 Greece has said you should take the following steps:

• Create a fire-free zone around the house by clearing any dry grass, leaves, pine needles and branches.

• Do not let tree branches touch the walls of your home, roof and balcony.

• Do not install shutters in your home made of flammable materials on windows.

• Make sure you have a watering hose near your home.

You can find the full guide here.

When should you evacuate?

According to Readyforwildfire.org, people should leave as soon as an evacuation is recommended by emergency services.

Make sure you leave as soon as you receive the news and do not wait for authorities to come to you or to be ordered directly by authorities to leave.

“Evacuating the forest fire area early also helps firefighters keep roads clear of congestion, and lets them move more freely to do their job. In an intense wildfire, they will not have time to knock on every door. If you are advised to leave, don’t hesitate,” readyforwildfire.org has said on its website.

Here are some steps you can take:

Emergency services will know exactly which areas will need to be evacuated and which escape routes you can take, so be on high alert.

Be sure to follow the orders authorities give you.

Always stay informed, you can do this by checking the latest on your phone, on social media, radio or television.

Officials may direct you to a temporary assembly point, where you will be transferred to a safe location.

Readyforwildfire.org has said on its website that people should not return to their homes until fire officials determine it is safe. “Notification that it is safe to return home will be given as soon as possible considering safety and accessibility,” it added.

Does the UK government help if you’re affected by a crisis abroad?

The official government website has said the help the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) can give may be limited.

It said before you travel you should:

Make sure you are covered by travel insurance.

Find out if your holiday is financially protected and what your flights are during your holiday.

There has been a Crisis Management Unit set up to respond to the situation in Rhodes. They can be contacted at +30 210 368 1730 / +30 210 3681259 / +30 210 3681350.

However, people have been advised to contact their airline or travel operator who can assist with a return to the UK.

The government website has also said during hot temperatures, people should take extra caution and follow NHS guidelines on how to cope during hot weather.

What have airlines said?

Jet2 and Tui have cancelled all flights to Rhodes. The Jet2 planes were scheduled to depart full of tourists bound for the Greek island. But the planes were empty and will be used to evacuate holidaymakers fleeing the blaze.

On Sunday (23 July), Jet 2 put out a statement on Twitter and said they are “keeping the situation under constant review”.

In its full statement, the airline said: “The situation in Rhodes continues to evolve quickly and our absolute priority is the health, safety and well-being of customers and colleagues in the affected areas. We can confirm that: Our in-resort teams are working hard to comply with the guidance of local authorities, and we are continuing to bring more customer helpers and local authorities colleagues to the area.”

The airline said it will continue to ask customers in affected areas to follow the advice of the local authorities, as well as “staff in their hotels” It said it was “contacting customers as quickly as possible.

The statement continued: “Due to these extraordinary circumstances, we have cancelled all flights and holidays that are due to depart to Rodes up to and including Sunday 30th July. We believe this is the right thing to do for everything, and we will be contacting affected customers with regard to their refund or rebooking options.

“We will fly those aircraft to Rhodes with no customers on board so that we can continue to bring customers back to the UK on their scheduled flights.”

TUI has also put out a statement and said their teams are “working hard with local authorities in Greece to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all our customers currently on holiday in Rhodes and impacted by the wildfires.”

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