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Rhodes Wildfires Rage Out Of Control While Greece Heatwave Peaks

Firefighting helicopter flying over wildfires on Rhodes.
Firefighting helicopter flying over wildfires on the island of Rhodes, in the Dodecanese. Credit: AMNA

Temperatures in Greece are expected to rise even further on Sunday while devastating wildfires continue to rage on the island of Rhodes, where thousands of tourists and local residents were evacuated by land or sea on Saturday evening in what is described as the largest evacuation operation to have ever taken place in the country.

Roads were closed as wildfires were burning out of control on three fronts on the island on Sunday morning, according to local sources.

266 firefighters with 49 vehicles were battling the flames on the ground, assisted by 5 helicopters and 10 firefighting aircraft dropping water from above.

An updated emergency weather report issued by the National Meteorological Service (EMY) on Saturday forecast a sizzling 45C in eastern parts of the country for Sunday.

After a brief reprieve on Monday, when temperatures are forecast to ease by 2-5C, a third surge of very high heat will hit the country from Tuesday until Thursday, July 27.

Thousands of tourists and residents dislocated or evacuated

Wildfires have been burning on Rhodes since Tuesday.

The blaze which has been burning since Saturday afternoon south of Laerma in central Rhodes was propelled by high winds and fanned the fire yet further south towards Lardos.

Evacuation orders for regional hotels were issued as a precaution ahead of the fast-moving fire and respective operations continued during Saturday night, aided by police, army vehicles, Hellenic Coast Guard vessels and private boats.

Evacuated visitors were either redirected to other hotels on the island or housed at indoor stadia and empty school rooms over the night pending accommodation arrangements.

Local volunteers and businesses were praised on social media for providing necessary food and clothing supplies to dislocated visitors.

Rhodes wildfires prompt unprecedented evacuation operations

According to latest estimates from the local police authority, some 19,000 people were evacuated from eleven communities, 3000 of which where evacuated by sea.

Most people were evacuated by coache, while police vehicles were used to evacuate the elderly and people with disabilities.

The large-scale evacuation operation is unprecedented for the country.

The Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in collaboration with foreign Embassies, will reportedly operate a Help Desk in the airport of Rhodes to facilitate the repatriation of tourists who lost or left behind their travel documents during evacuation and wish to leave the island.

The affected areas of Rhodes represent less than 10 percent of the island’s tourist accommodation, a representative of the Hellenic Fire Service stated in an update on Saturday evening.

Foreign citizens in need of assistance may contact the Crisis Management Unit of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at (+30) 210-3681730.



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