A satellite image of the EU’s Copernicus space program shows the extent of the destruction by the wildfire on the Greek island of Rhodes.
More than 100 square kilometers of land, including a virgin forest, has been burned so far as firefighters aided by fire-dropping aircraft and helicopters are battling the blaze for a sixth consecutive day.
The wildfire which forced 19,000 to flee has destroyed the habitat of wild animals, bee hives and agricultural lands. It is described as the worst disaster to hit the Greek island in recent memory.
⚠️Ποιος σας είπε ότι δεν θρηνούμε ζωές, αυτά δεν έχουνε ζωή;
(Ασκληπιείο Ρόδου, σήμερα)
— Καθίκι (@KYTKYTKYTKYTKYT) July 23, 2023
Rhodes is home to the Dama-Dama Deer which is a protected species. It lives in pines and cypress forest, where it can find water to consume throughout the year.
There are many legends about how this deer was brought to the island. The strongest one supports that they have been in Rhodes from ancient times, in the 6th century BC. Back then, the island was named “Elafousa”, after the many deers living there.
Another interesting legend states that, the deers were brought to Rhodes by the Crusaders in the Medieval times, in order to protect their camps from the snakes. Although the deers do not kill snakes, their horns produce a substance with a smell that makes the snakes to turn away.
You will find two deer statues, a feminine and a male, standing at the Mandraki Harbor, in the town of Rhodes. An elegant symbol for an elegant island such as the one of Rhodes.
Arson is suspected of causing the wildfire on Rhodes
Officials say there are early indications of arson as a police investigation is launched into the horrific wildfires.
Vassilis Vathrakogiannis, from the Rhodes Fire Department, told reporters that the blistering heatwave may not be to blame for the heartbreaking blaze.
He said: “Fires are set by human hands. Whether it is due to negligence or fraud will be seen (but) people have been summoned for statements and others will be summoned.
“As soon as we have complete information – because the investigation is in full swing, we will make announcements.”
A video that is making the rounds on Greek social media shows an isolated blaze erupting out of nowhere:
— Princess D 👑 (@princess_D2011) July 23, 2023
A fire brigade official said the wildfires on Rhodes have affected 10% of hotels in the central and southeast parts of the island. The north and western parts were not affected.
Coastguard vessels and private boats carried more than 3,000 tourists from beaches on Saturday. Many people fled hotels when huge flames reached the seaside villages of Kiotari, Gennadi, Pefki, Lindos, Lardos and Kalathos. Crowds gathered in streets under a red sky while smoke hung over deserted shorelines.
Pictures and videos posted by tourists on social media showed local residents using their own cars or bundling tourists into trucks and pick-ups to take them to safety.
In Lindos, famed for an acropolis on a massive rock within medieval walls, a blaze charred the hillside and buildings.