Over 8,000 residents and tourists were evacuated from homes and hotels on Rhodes in the Dodecanese after a wildfire burning on the island since Tuesday and fanned by strong winds spread to settlements.
The Region of South Aegean declared a state of emergency for Rhodes on Saturday afternoon.
“We are living tragic times, Rhodes has suffered an unimaginable disaster,” South Aegean Regional Governor George Hatzimarkos told SKAI TV, stressing that authorities are exhausting all possibilities to save human lives.
On Saturday afternoon, the residents and tourists in four villages – Asklipieio, Kiotari, Lardos and Pylona – were told to evacuate.
Three hotels in the area of Kiotari on the island’s southeastern coast were evacuated and tourists were transferred by buses to safety.
Among the hotels evacuated in Kiotari, were two of the Mitsis Group – the Mitsis Rodos Maris Resort & Spa and the Mitsis Rodos Village Beach Hotel & Spa.
In a statement, Mitsis Hotels said: “Our well-trained staff and emergency response teams acted swiftly to ensure the safety of everyone on the premises. To ensure the continued comfort and convenience of our guests, we have taken steps to accommodate everyone in nearby hotels”.
“Thousands of people, over 8,000 locals and visitors have moved from their homes and accommodations to come to safe places,” Hatzimarkos said.
Fire Service spokesman Yiannis Artopios said that some 2,000 people were evacuated by sea from two of the island’s beaches.
According to the Ministry of Climate Crisis and Civil Protection, all tourists have been safely transported from the fire-affected areas of Rhodes.
“Visitors are being safely evacuated from the affected areas of Rhodes. No injuries have been reported. They are heading to other hotels on the island,” the ministry said on Twitter.
Thousands of tourists were given shelter in the conference rooms of nine hotels – SHERATON RHODES RESORT, VERGINA, AMATHUS, RODOS PALACE, MEDITERRANEAN, PARADISE RESORT- ELA RESORT, OLYMPIC PALACE, KRESTEN PALACE and EDEN ROC.
Also, three ferries – the Blue Star Chios, the Dodecanese Express and the Panagia Skiadeni – are being used as floating hotels to host the displaced.
Wildfires continued to engulf different parts of the island on Saturday.
Later in the night, strong winds pushed the fire south towards the area of Laerma. A 112 evacuation text message from the Ministry of Climate Crisis and Civil Protection to villagers followed.
Update: After midnight, the Ministry of Climate Crisis and Civil Protection sent SMS messages for people in Pefki, Lindos and Kalathos to evacuate to Archangelos. After 1am the ministry issued another emergency alert ordering for people in Masari, Malonas and Charaki to evacuate.
According to local media on Sunday, a total of 12 hotels have been evacuated on Rhodes and some 10,000 tourists moved to safer locations, in addition to around 15,000 residents that evacuated their homes.
Ministry activates Crisis Management Unit
The Greece Foreign Ministry activated its Crisis Management Unit to facilitate the evacuation of foreign citizens in Greece due to the ongoing forest fires.
Foreign citizens in need of assistance may contact the Crisis Management Unit at (+30) 2103681730, 2103681259, 2103681350.
Moreover, Greek and foreign citizens in danger are asked to contact civil protection directly on the three-digit number 112.