Authorities in Corfu issued evacuation alerts for 12 villages, Athens News Agency reported. Several forest fires had broken out on the popular holiday island. Coast Guard boats and private boats then brought almost 2,500 holidaymakers and residents to safety on Monday night, according to the fire brigade.
On the second largest Greek island of Euboea, several residential areas had to be evacuated as a result of a forest fire. Large fires were also reported near Karystos and on the Peloponnese peninsula near the small port town of Egion on Monday morning. There, too, numerous villages were evacuated. No one has been injured so far, the emergency services said. In all cases, firefighting planes and helicopters were used at first light on Monday morning to contain the fires, according to civil defense. Because of the fires across the country, the presidency of Greece canceled all celebrations commemorating the restoration of democracy this Monday.
Mass evacuation on Rhodes
A major fire raged on the island of Rhodes on Monday for the seventh day in a row that got out of control. Around 30,000 people from the southeast were brought to safety there on Saturday in one of the largest evacuation operations in the history of Greece. A police spokeswoman spoke of the “biggest fire evacuation” that has ever happened in Greece. During the night, hundreds of firefighters fought against the flames spreading to other villages and towns, as reported by state television (ERT). Authorities estimate it could be days before the fires are under control. In south-west Greece, temperatures rose to over 46 degrees on Sunday.
Ten fire-fighting aircraft and eight helicopters were deployed on Rhodes on Sunday. Including two planes from France, two from Turkey, one from Croatia and a helicopter from Jordan, according to the fire department. Winds and drought combined with high temperatures allow the fire to spread.
Numerous vacationers in emergency shelters
Thousands of tourists who had to leave their hotels around the popular holiday town of Lindos on Saturday because of the heavy smoke and the ever approaching flames spent the second night in sports halls and schools. Many waited at the airport for the next opportunity to depart. A large part of the Mediterranean island was also without electricity because the public utility company PPC shut down the local power plant in the south for safety reasons.
Rhodes is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Greece, and many Germans also travel to the island. According to the Federal Foreign Office, a team from the German embassy and the German honorary consul are on site to “consularly support affected German nationals if necessary”. The German travel group TUI does not want to bring any more holidaymakers to the island until Tuesday. A few flights are still planned – but they should only fly vacationers back from Rhodes, said a spokeswoman for the AFP news agency. The TUI Group currently has around 40,000 guests on Rhodes.
Tourists still come
However, despite the fires, more tourists arrived on Sunday with charter and scheduled flights, reporters reported. Around 90 per cent of Rhodes’ hotels have survived the fires, according to local authority officials – but most of them are fully booked during the high season.
Meanwhile, critical issues related to the evacuation of hotels in the south-east of the island are being raised. Many tourists had left their suitcases and other items, including identity papers, in their rooms. Christos Pilatakis, a hotel director from the city of Lindos, told the dpa news agency that this had to be settled between the travel agencies and the hotels. First, the fire brigade and police would have to allow the staff to return. After that, the things left behind should be sent to the respective countries of the guests. This will take a few days.
A first hope is now in sight: On Thursday, the heat wave that has been going on in Greece for about two weeks should ease off. Then the thermometers should again reach normal temperatures of around 35 degrees for the season – instead of 40 degrees and more now. Temperatures are also expected to drop in other parts of Greece.
kle/as (dpa, afp, rtre, ape)