Rhodes wildfires prompt mass evacuations, flights canceled to Greek island

Wildfires raging on the popular Greek holiday island of Rhodes prompted authorities to evacuate 19,000 tourists and residents from danger zones. in what officials described as the largest fire prevention evacuation in the history of the country.

At least 164 fires have burned in 58 places on the island in the last 24 hours. Sunday the firefighters of Greeceas residents were forced out of their homes and summer vacations turned into chaotic nightmares. No casualties had been reported, according to officials from the country’s Ministry of Climate Crisis and Civil Protection. Nine people went to the hospital for breathing problems, he added.

The ministry said 266 firefighters, 49 engines, hundreds of volunteers, 10 planes and 8 helicopters were part of the emergency response on Sunday.

International aid included French and Turkish aircraft, as well as fire engines and engines from Slovakia.

The fires come as parts of southern Europe are reeling under a heatwave that has forced many nations, including Greece, to issue warnings, with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

There have been other fires in Greece this month, including in Athens, where the Acropolis was closed to tourists on July 15. More than 100 homes and businesses were badly damaged in the fire in Athens and another nearby, Reuters reported, citing local authorities.

European heat wave prompts multiple warnings and closes Greece’s Acropolis

In response to the latest wildfires, airlines TUI and Jet2 announced on Sunday that they were canceling flights to Rhodes, as tourists on the island took to social media to document their experiences.

The deputy mayor of Rhodes, Athanasios Vyrinis, warned on Sunday that authorities are struggling to cope with the large number of evacuees. “There is only water and some rudimentary food – we have no mattresses or beds,” he said, according to the BBC, adding that some people had slept in cardboard boxes.

On Twitter, some tourists shared how they fled the island’s resorts, grabbing their children and running as fires tore through their hotels, while others spent the night in makeshift accommodation, sleeping on mattresses on the floor.

“We’re safe for now,” a tourist, Dan Jones, he wrote on Twitter alongside a photo of three children sitting on a boat, with an orange sky behind them. “After we got into the sea and got on a trawler, we’re out of danger,” said Jones, who described the experience as “the scariest moment of my life” and thanked local people who came to his family’s aid.

Last week, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis cut short his visit to Brussels and returned to Greece as other nations, including Cyprus and Israel, pledged aid to the country. France and Italy sent aircraft to help the firefighting operation, while Slovakia sent around 30 firefighters and five fire engines.

In a Sunday updateGreek authorities described “extreme weather conditions” prevailing across the country, which have been suffocating in recent weeks, warning that “even the smallest fire can turn into a major natural disaster”.

Last year, a UN report concluded that the risk of uncontrollable forest fires worldwide is intensifying with rising greenhouse gas emissions. Even with deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, the UN analysis projected that the risk would increase by 50 percent by the end of the century.

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