Unprecedented evacuation efforts amid historic heat wave and raging wildfires in Greece.
The wildfire outbreak on the Greek island of Rhodes, the country’s worst in history, forced an evacuation of thousands of tourists and residents, leaving them with terrifying memories and fears about the future.
A fierce wildfire, ignited by Greece’s record-breaking heatwave, has been ripping through the central and south parts of Rhodes, a major tourist hotspot. Those caught in the blaze shared stories of chaos and fear, with some evacuating on foot or arranging their own transportation after being instructed to leave.
Left to their own devices, many took just their identity cards and essentials, abandoning everything else. As part of the evacuation process, about 16,000 people were moved by land and 3,000 by sea.
The fire is now endangering the regions of Kiotari and Lardos, near the Lindos archaeological site. To accommodate the evacuees, facilities, including hotels, schools, sports centers, and conference centers, have been prepared in the safer parts of the island. The Greek government has announced that the foreign ministry will set up a helpdesk to assist tourists returning to their countries.
Tourism Severely Impacted, Global Aid Mobilized
The escalating crisis prompted British airline Jet2 and holiday group TUI to cancel all flights and holiday offers to Rhodes until the situation stabilizes. Meanwhile, the Greek Ministry of Civil Protection has raised a red alert for wildfires in 13 departments, including Athens, where the Acropolis and other archaeological sites have revised their visiting hours due to soaring temperatures.
Kostas Lagouvardos, Director of Research at the National Observatory of Athens, highlighted the unprecedented nature of this crisis, stating that the heatwave might exceed 15 to 16 days, surpassing the previous record of 12 days in 1987. The intense heat wave sweeping across Europe is part of a concerning trend of extreme weather events, which scientists say is likely to intensify as the planet warms.
The wildfire crisis has not only disrupted tourism but also posed a significant threat to Rhodes’ natural environment, with the potential to devastate the island’s thriving wildlife. The impact extends beyond the immediate threat to life and property, revealing the stark reality of global warming and providing a harsh wake-up call for effective climate action.
As the fight against the blaze continues, the island is left scarred, its future uncertain.