Greece flames continue, thousands of tourists evacuated

Firefighters on Monday battled wildfires caused by a heat wave following the unprecedented evacuation of thousands of tourists on short holidays in the Greek islands of Rhodes and Corfu.

Fire department spokesman Yanis Artopios said “2,466 people were evacuated as a precaution” overnight from Sunday to Monday in Corfu due to wildfires, stressing that no houses or hotels had been destroyed so far.

Up to 30,000 tourists were evacuated on Saturday from a violent fire on the tourist island of Rhodes in the southeast of the Aegean Sea, according to officials, in what was “the largest operation (of its kind) ever carried out in Greece”.

Kelly Squirrel, a British tourist, said police ordered people out of her hotel in Rhodes.

Six-hour walk in the heat

“We had to walk continuously. We walked for about six hours in the heat,” he told AFP after arriving at Rhodes International Airport.

Kevin Sales, describes it as a “terrible” situation. “We had to borrow a woman’s clothes from my wife because she had nothing to wear,” the English engineer told AFP.

In Corfu, the authorities warned residents of several small towns and holidaymakers to leave their places of residence “as a precaution” via a warning message on cell phones.

The fire broke out on Sunday and is burning in forest in the north of the island in the Ionian Sea, where “62 firefighters supported by two helicopters and two water bombers are working on Monday”, according to the fire department.

Greece has been hit by wildfires since last week, with temperatures reaching more than 46 degrees Celsius locally on Sunday, one of the longest heat waves in recent decades.

– hell” –

Lena Schwarz, who returned to Germany with other compatriots after fleeing the island of Rhodes, described it as “hell”.

“We walked about 10 kilometers with all our belongings in temperatures of 42 degrees Celsius to escape the flames,” a 38-year-old woman told AFP in a hall at Hannover Airport (North) from Sunday to Monday night.

Tourists take shelter in a gymnasium following a fire on the Greek island of Rhodes, July 23, 2023 (Eurokinisi/AFP – Stringer)

Along with the British and French, the Germans provide the largest contingent of tourists during the summer on the island of Rhodes.

Many German tourists describe the circumstances of their departure during the weekend as dire.

Oxana Neb, 50, was furious when she got off the plane, saying “the evacuation was very badly organised”.

Encountering the flames near his hotel, he remembers running “(along with others) to the beach” with the suitcase, which he had left before continuing on his way.

Arriving at Rhodes airport at full capacity, the fleeing tourists found a chaotic situation.

In the departure hall of the international airport in the island’s northwest, some were lying or sleeping on the floor among luggage, while others grouped together in front of flight display panels, AFP reported.

Rhodes, with 2.5 million visitors expected in 2022, is one of Greece’s top resort destinations with many hotels on its eastern shores.


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