Greece still facing extreme temperatures and fires

Greece is also in the grip of a heat wave on Tuesday, with maximum temperatures expected to reach 44 degrees Celsius, while fires continue to blaze across parts of the tourist islands of Rhodes, Corfu and Euboea near Athens.

The fires, fueled by strong winds, also affect Algeria, another country around the Mediterranean particularly exposed to global warming, where 34 people have died in these fires.

In France, Meteo-France on Monday placed the Bouches-du-Rhône department in the country’s southeast at the highest level of alert.

“Due to the weather conditions, the risk of forest and vegetation fires starting and spreading is much higher than normal summer events,” Meteo-France said.

In the Greek capital, which has been suffocating for more than a week, the thermometer is expected to climb as high as 41 degrees Celsius, according to national weather forecast EMY, while maximum temperatures in the center of the country are expected to reach 44 degrees Celsius.

According to EMY experts, this Mediterranean country, so far accustomed to heat waves, is experiencing one of the longest heat waves in recent years.

Throughout the weekend, Greece sweated a lot with a maximum temperature of 46.4°C in Gythio on the Peloponnese peninsula (southwest) on Sunday.

A firefighter holds on to rabbits and a cat that survived the flames, near the Greek villages of Kiotari and Gennadi, on the island of Rhodes, July 24, 2023 (AFP – Spiros Baklis)

These extremely high temperatures, combined with strong winds sometimes reaching 60 km/h in the Aegean Sea, led to eight days of intense fire.

The fires are particularly devastating on very touristy islands, such as Rhodes, off the Turkish coast, and Corfu, at the other end of the country, in the Ionian Sea, when the tourist season is in full swing and hotels are often full.

Two years after a devastating fire in the north, a hundred kilometers from Athens, the south of the large island of Evia has also been partially destroyed by the flames.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis warned on Monday that Greece still has three difficult days ahead on the frontline of the fires.

The head of government will have to bring his government together for the Council of Ministers at the end of the morning, faced with impressive images of thousands of hectares of fire that have roiled the entire country.

– Solidarity –

He ruled on Monday that Greece is “at war” in the face of these disasters, which are destroying forests and vegetation, although, at this stage, no one is suffering.

In Rhodes, where an unprecedented evacuation operation of some 30,000 tourists and residents took place this weekend, more than 266 firefighters are still trying to bring the blaze under control for an eighth straight day, according to firefighters.

“It is sad what is happening,” in the village of Vati, southeast of Rhodes, testified to AFP Vassilis Kalabodakis, the town’s president surrounded by two Canadairs and a helicopter.

“The village has been ordered to be evacuated but we cannot leave it,” he says amid a rain of ash. “We are leading the fight to save our place.”

Several tens of kilometers away, in the north of the island, volunteers come to the aid of foreign tourists evacuated on Saturday, who have been camping for two days at a school.

Residents battle a fire in Kiotari and Gennadi, on the Greek island of Rhodes, July 24, 2023 (AFP - Spiros Bakalis)
Residents battle a fire in Kiotari and Gennadi, on the Greek island of Rhodes, July 24, 2023 (AFP – Spiros Bakalis)

About 200 people are still living there after fleeing hotels and holiday homes due to the flames on Saturday and Sunday.

“We immediately mobilized the school staff and dozens of volunteers came forward to help,” school director Kyriakos Kyriakolis told AFP.

He added, “The scale of solidarity has far exceeded our expectations.”

“I can’t believe they are so nice, they give so much and in every way. I am very impressed,” said British tourist Christine Moody, 69, who was on her first holiday in Greece.

An aerial view of the charred surroundings of the village of Kiotari on the Greek island of Rhodes, July 24, 2023. (AFP - Spiros Bakalis)
An aerial view of the charred surroundings of the village of Kiotari on the Greek island of Rhodes, July 24, 2023. (AFP – Spiros Bakalis)

At the other end of the country, north of Corfu, where some 2,500 people had to be evacuated as a precaution from Sunday to Monday, 62 firefighters, a helicopter and two water bombers are fighting the blaze, according to firefighters.

Near the town of Caristos in southern Evia, 93 firefighters and two water bombers are working hard.

At least 34 people, including 10 soldiers, were killed in these violent fires in Algeria overnight from Sunday to Monday and are still continuing.

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