uncontrolled fire in Rhodes and thousands of evacuees in shelters

A burned hotel is seen during the forest fire on the island of Rhodes in Greece on July 22, 2023.

The local authorities of the Greek island of Rhodes announced that they had sheltered some 30,000 locals and tourists threatened by the spread of the fire, which is out of control, while another 2,000 people were transferred in boats.

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The Greek authorities continued, during the night of July 22 to July 23, with the evacuations and reception of residents and tourists from various towns from the island of Rhodes, where a forest fire has been raging in the area for five days.

Fanned by strong winds, the fire front that extends for 9 kilometers – from the center towards the east of the island–, is creating extreme conditions, as stated to ‘Skai TV’ by the spokesman for the Greek fire brigade, Vassilis Varthakogiannis: “It is not a fire that is going to go out tomorrow or the day after. It is going to make us suffer for several more days.”

Some 1,200 people are still waiting to be evacuated. of the villages of Pefki, Lindos and Kalathos.

“Last night we put firebreaks around the town of laerma“, explained to ‘Open TV’ Konstantinos Taraslias, an elected official from Rhodes. “But this morning the wind turned 180 degrees and that contributed to the fire spreading for several kilometers, reaching the tourist area”.

A burned hotel is seen during the forest fire on the island of Rhodes in Greece on July 22, 2023. © Argiris Mantikos / Eurokinissi / Reuters

In Athens, the crisis unit of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been activated to facilitate the evacuation of foreign citizens. And it is that the local authorities of the island reported having sheltered 30,000 people threatened by the flames, between locals and tourists. Some 2,000 more people were evacuated by boats.

“Protect human lives”

More than thirty boats participated in this mission and three coast guard boats had to protect this operation, which also involved more than one thirty private vessels.

According to the Greek coast guard, the evacuees were on the beaches of Kiotari and lardoson the east coast of this island close to the Turkish coast. Three hotels in the sector Kiotari They also suffered damage.

“The objective is to protect human lives,” said the regional governor, George Hadjimarkos, to ‘Skai TV’, despite the fact that the fire is making the work of emergency services difficult by cutting off certain accesses and roads. For this reason, in some cases people had to leave on foot and not by transport.

Five helicopters and 173 firefighters mobilized

Alerted by SMS messages, tourists on the island fled to the beach with suitcases and children and some were unable to contact their airline and missed their flights.

For their part, according to the public channel ‘ERT TV’, the firefighters had to take refuge in the Ypseni monastery, near lardos. The firefighters and their commander were stranded at the monastery after trying to convince the nuns to leave.

According to the deputy head of this body, Yannis Artapoios, the fire, which started on a mountain in the center of the island, It is the most difficult that the firefighters of Rhodes have faced.

Five helicopters and 173 firefighters are currently on the ground to fight the fire.

Three ferries have been requested in the port of Rhodes to house the rescued people, while dozens of buses have been chartered to help with the evacuations, a Rhodes municipality official, Teris Hatziioannou, reported.

Greece is currently experiencing an exceptionally long heatwave, with temperatures expected to exceed 44 degrees this weekend.

with AFP

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Written by Editor TLN

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