A huge wildfire that has spread across the Greek island of Rhodes has forced thousands of tourists to leave their hotels in what Greek officials say is the largest evacuation effort in the country’s history.
Those caught in the fire described chaotic and frightening scenes, with some having to leave on foot or find their own transport after being told to leave.
Wildfires in central and southern Rhodes – an island popular with holidaymakers – have been burning since Tuesday. It is the largest of many flames GreeceIt is simmering due to what experts say is the country’s longest heat wave on record.
Amy Layton, a British tourist in Rhodes, said she was told to leave her hotel immediately or she and her family “couldn’t make it”.
“It was very scary,” he told Sky News. “Our 11-year-old daughter is with us and we were walking on the road around two in the morning when the fire caught us.”
Cédric Guisset, a tourist from Belgium, escaped on Saturday with nowhere to go. “We told the hotel about the messages on our phones to evacuate the area, but they were not aware of it,” he told public radio station RTBF.
“We took our identity cards, water and something to cover our faces and heads.”
The Greek government said nearly 19,000 people had been evacuated since Saturday in Rhodes.
Officials say at least 12 hotels have been evacuated.
Boats were used to take some tourists to safety.
The government called the operation “the biggest effort Greece has ever seen”, and 16,000 people, including tourists and residents, were transported by land and 3,000 by sea.
According to the local fire service, firefighters are currently focusing on three extreme fronts in the central and southern part of the island.E.
The fire is burning near the areas of Kyotari and Lardos, not far from the Lindos archaeological site. The site has never been threatened.
Hotels, schools, sports centers and conference centers in safe areas of the island have been activated to host those in need.
According to the Greek government, Greece’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs will set up a dedicated help center to assist tourists when they return to their respective countries. Tour operators have additionally ordered charter flights to land in Rhodes without passengers “to pick up passengers wishing to leave the island”.
Eight people were taken to hospital with respiratory problems, according to fire officials.
British airline Jet2 canceled all flights and holiday offers to Rhodes on Sunday. TUI Holidays Group has canceled all holiday packages to the Greek island until Tuesday due to the ongoing wildfires, both companies said in statements.
According to the Greek Ministry of Civil Defense, 13 departments, including the Attica region where the capital Athens is located, were on red alert for wildfires on Sunday, the highest level of alert due to the extreme danger of the fire.
In Athens, visiting hours for the Acropolis and other archaeological sites have been revised due to rising temperatures. Employees have gone on strike in some places to protest the working conditions.
“We will probably experience a heat wave of 15 to 16 days, which is unprecedented in our country,” Costas Lagovartos, director of research at the National Observatory of Athens, told CNN.
He told CNN that those days may go beyond that, but it’s “difficult to predict” at the moment.
The longest continuous heat wave Greece experienced lasted 12 days, in July 1987, Lacovertos said.
Athens’ temperature this summer could break the city’s all-time record, set in June 2007 when 44.8 degrees Celsius (112.64 degrees Fahrenheit) was recorded in Athens, Lacovertos said.
Socrates Baltagianis/Image Alliance/Getty Images
A tourist cools off with ice cubes at the entrance to the Acropolis in central Athens.
Large parts of the Northern Hemisphere have seen extreme temperatures, while Europe has seen dramatic changes from one extreme weather pattern to another.
Veneto was the northern region of Italy Tennis ball sized hail By Wednesday night, at least 110 people were injured. The Veneto regional civil defense reported that emergency services responded to more than 500 calls for help due to property damage and personal injuries.
The country experienced record heat, with capital Rome hitting a new high of 41 degrees Celsius on Tuesday. Last year, the country was hit by devastating floods.
In the Balkans, severe thunderstorms that hit on Wednesday claimed several lives, CNN affiliate N1 reported Thursday.
Scientists warn Extreme weather can only be a preview of what’s to come as the planet warms.
“Weather intensity will continue to intensify and our weather patterns may change in ways we still cannot predict,” Peter Stott, a scientist in climate attribution at the UK Met Office, told CNN.