Dozens of fires continue to burn across Greece for the seventh consecutive day exacerbated by extremely high temperatures and fanned by strong winds forcing authorities to issue evacuation orders.
Fire fighting forces which include aircraft and ground units from Greece and the EU are battling the fires which have so far ravaged Rhodes forcing hundreds of tourists and locals to leave the island. The government on Sunday published a Q&A for tourists affected by the forest fires on the island.
According to Greece’s General Secretariat for Civil Protection, the risk for fire remains high for today (July 24) due to expected strong winds and high temperatures as the country braces for yet another mini-heat wave forecast mid-week.
During Monday’s briefing, Greek Fire Service Spokesperson Vasilios Vathrakogiannis confirmed that in addition to Rhodes, efforts are underway to control new fires on Corfu, where evacuation orders were also issued last night; Aigio in the Peloponnese, also near the popular tourist area of Diakofto. The Diakofto-Kalavryta train routes have been suspended. Blazes also broke out in Pelion, Messinia and Epidavros; and in Karystos on Evia. The northern half of Evia was nearly burnt to the ground in 2021.
“Conditions remain difficult. Vigilance is necessary by all. The fire risk will be extremely high in several regions of Greece on Monday,” said Vathrakogiannis, adding that a man was arrested in Megalopoli for lighting a field fire.
The European Union (EU) has sent additional fire fighting forces to help in the effort, expressing its “full support for Greece, which is confronted with devastating forest fires and a heavy heat wave due to climate change. Greece is handling this difficult situation with professionalism, putting emphasis on safely evacuating thousands of tourists, and can always count on European solidarity. EU firefighters are already on the ground,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism last week. “The EU and the EU Civil Protection Mechanism have once more proved their immense value in times of need. We are grateful to all the countries that sent help to fight the forest fires in Greece. Your contribution has been invaluable. In trying times, our Union stands together in solidarity,” said Mitsotakis via his twitter account.
Besides the damage to homes, buildings and villages on Rhodes, the fires have been a massive blow to tourism in Greece. Travel companies Jet2 and TUI cancelled flights to the island, where some 19,000 people were evacuated over the weekend. Fires continue to burn on the island.
On Sunday, the US Mission in Greece issued a Natural Disaster Alert, warning US citizens to ongoing wildfires on Rhodes and high risk of wildfires in many regions of Greece.
Sunday (July 23) marked five years since Greek authorities failed to contain a fire in Northeastern Attica. In the July 2018 fire, 104 people lost their lives after a fire devastated the seaside resort town of Mati.