Wildfires forced thousands of people to flee the popular Greek island of Rhodes on Sunday, with terrified tourists scrambling to get home.
There were also reports of wildfires on Corfu, another popular Greek island, with people being taken to safety by land and sea on Sunday.
The fires in Rhodes come at the height of the tourism season and have resulted in the country’s largest wildfire evacuation yet. Numerous flights and holidays have already been cancelled.
Hundreds of holidaymakers milled around Rhodes’ international airport on Sunday; some tried to sleep on their beach towels while waiting for flights to leave the island.
Greece’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Embassies is now setting up an office at Rhodes Airport to help tourists who lost travel documents while fleeing the flames.
“This is a particularly devastating fire because it affects the heart of Rhodes and its surroundings,” Efthymios Lekkas, a professor who specializes in natural disasters, told ERT TV on Sunday.
He also warned about the serious effects of the fires on the island’s tourism industry.
Kelly Squirrel, a transport administrator from the United Kingdom (UK) on holiday in Greece, told AFP she saw the fires from the pool and immediately ran to the beach when she was told to leave the area.
“We walked for about six hours in the heat to get away,” says Squirrel.
Rhodes is one of Greece’s most popular holiday destinations, especially among British, German and French tourists.
“In their haste to leave, some visitors had to leave their belongings behind,” says Kevin Sales, an engineer from England.
“We had to borrow some of my wife’s clothes for a woman because she had nothing to wear; it was horrible,” says Sales.
Other Greek islands have reported similar problems.
According to the fire brigade, a wildfire broke out on Greece’s second largest island, Evia, and many had to flee residential areas.
Evia, on the east coast of central Greece, suffered the worst wildfires in the country’s history last year.
According to the Athens News Agency, the authorities have already issued warnings for the evacuation of 12 towns in northwestern Greece. The coast guard at Corfu says a rescue operation – due to a wildfire – has meanwhile been launched at the beach in Nissaki in the north-east of the island.
“Six coast guard vessels and seven private boats rescued 59 people from the beach.”
Tourists and some locals had to spend the night in gyms, schools and hotel conference centers on the island.
A large part of the island is also without electricity because the public power supplier, PPC, had to close the local plant in the south of the country due to safety concerns.