A week-old wildfire on the Greek resort island of Rhodes tore past defenses Monday, forcing more evacuations as strong winds and successive heat waves that left scrubland and forests tinder-dry fueled three major fires raging elsewhere in Greece.
The latest evacuations were ordered in south Rhodes after 19,000 people, mostly tourists, were moved in buses and boats over the weekend out of the path of the fire that reached several coastal areas from nearby mountains. It was the country's biggest evacuation effort in recent years.
“We are at war - completely focused on the fires,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said during a debate in parliament. “Over the coming days and weeks, we must remain on constant alert.”
Help continued to arrive from the European Union and elsewhere, with firefighting planes from neighbouring Turkey joining the effort on Rhodes, where 10 water-dropping planes and 10 helicopters buzzed over flames up to five metres tall despite low visibility.
Temperatures reached the low 40s Celsius in parts of the Greek mainland Monday, a day after soaring as high as 45 degrees.
Evacuations were also ordered overnight on the western island of Corfu, where more than 2,000 people were moved to safety by land and sea, as well as on the island of Evia and in a mountainous area in the southern Peloponnese region.
- Follow our live blog below for all the events on Monday 24 July as they unfolded.
- Devastating wildfires are continuing to sweep through Greece for a sixth consecutive day
- Mass evacuations have been ordered on several Greek islands, with tens of thousands taken to safety
- Searing temperatures and high winds are set to continue until Wednesday
- Countries from around the world have dispatched support to the fire-afflicted nation
That's the end of our live coverage of the Greece wildfires, and evacuations of local residents and tourists, on Monday 24 July.
Follow our website www.euronews.com for all the latest updates.
WATCH: Aerial shots show the devastation from Greek island fires
Watch video of the scale of the fires below ⬇️
📸 Picture: Greek fireman rescues rabbits and a cat from the flames
A fireman holds a cat and two rabbits after rescuing them from a fire between the villages of Kiotari and Gennadi, on the Greek island of Rhodes on Monday 24 July.
Firefighters tackled blazes that erupted in peak tourism season, sparking the country's largest-ever wildfire evacuation -- and leaving flights and holidays cancelled. Tens of thousands of people have already fled blazes on the island of Rhodes, with many frightened tourists scrambling to get home on evacuation flights.
Animal charities have been urging local residents not to leave their pets behind if they have to evacuate their homes. [AFP]
Airport evacuations continue in Rhodes
Seasonal workers lying on beach towels, vacationers in bathing suits slumped on chairs: Rhodes airport looks like an improvised camp on Monday due to the fire that is ravaging part of this very touristic Greek island.
In the departures hall of the international airport, many holidaymakers, waiting for a flight to return to their country, share the stories of their "evacuation in nightmarish conditions" from the hotels and holiday residences where they were staying at the edge of the Aegean Sea.
Among them, Daniel-Cladin Schimdt, a 42-year-old German tourist, who came on vacation with his wife and their nine-year-old son to the coast of Kiotari, the southeastern region of the island.
"We are exhausted and traumatized," he told AFP. "I don't think we really realise what happened." After the hotel alarm sounded on Saturday, "we were evacuated to the beach," he recalls.
"There were thousands of people, the buses couldn't pass, we had to walk for more than two hours (…) We couldn't breathe, we covered our faces to move forward. It's a miracle," he says, overcome by emotion.
Facing the coasts of Turkey, Rhodes, which had 2.5 million visitor arrivals in 2022, is one of the main resort destinations in Greece, with numerous hotels all along its eastern shores.
During the course of Saturday and Sunday, some 30,000 people were evacuated as a precaution against the advance of the flames, the largest evacuation operation ever carried out in Greece, according to firefighters.
On Monday as the fire raged for the seventh day in a row, other residential areas had to be evacuated, such as Asklipio where the village bells started ringing to mark the evacuation order.
"Suddenly, we saw the fire just outside" the village, testified Giorgos Latos, an 83-year-old pensioner, who was drinking his morning coffee at the time. [AFP]
Greek islanders worry the heat will hit tourism and wreck harvests
Kos is one of the most popular Greek islands with tourists and each year around 1.3 million people choose to go there for their holidays. Read more at our story here ⬇️
Greek PM says 'we are at war' against wildfires
A weeklong wildfire on the Greek island of Rhodes tore past defenses Monday, forcing more evacuations, as three major fires raged elsewhere in the country fueled by strong winds and successive heat waves.
The latest evacuations were ordered in south Rhodes after 19,000 people, mostly tourists, were moved in buses and boats over the weekend out of the path of the fire that reached several coastal areas from nearby mountains.
“We are at war -– completely focused on the fires,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said during a debate in parliament. “Over the coming days and weeks, we must remain on constant alert.”
Help continued to arrive from the European Union and elsewhere, with Turkish firefighting planes joining the effort in Rhodes, where eight water-dropping planes and 10 helicopters buzzed over flames up to five metres tall despite low visibility.
“The risk of fire will be extreme in several areas of Greece today,” Fire Service spokesperson Vassilis Vathrakogiannis said a day after temperatures on the southern Greek mainland soared as high as +45°C. [AP]
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted that she contacted the prime minister late Sunday to offer additional assistance as Greece "is confronted with devastating forest fires and a heavy heat wave due to climate change.”
In Greece, an average of 50 new wildfires have broken out daily for the past 12 days, according to government spokesperson Pavlos Marinakis. On Sunday, 64 new blazes were recorded.
Authorities said no serious injuries were reported, but hospitals and health volunteers provided first aid to tourists and others, mostly for the effects of heat and dehydration.