Rhodes wildfires: Thousands flee Greek homes & hotels as ‘most dangerous’ blaze ravaging island spreads

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The blaze in Rhodes is just one of several active fires across Greece, but has been dubbed the ‘most dangerous’ by firefighters.

A blaze burning on the Greek island of Rhodes has forced authorities to order an evacuation of four locations, with thousands fleeing seaside resorts and hotels. The wildfire is in its fifth day and was previously confined to the island’s mountainous centre - but aided by winds, very high temperatures and dry conditions, it spread on Saturday (July 22) towards the coast on the island’s central-eastern side.

Local media reported the fires had reached three hotels, which had already been evacuated. Fire Service spokesman Yannis Artopios said on Saturday afternoon that residents of four localities were sent SMS messages to evacuate – in two places they were told to move to the north east and in two others to the south west.

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Mr Artopios added that more than 200 firefighters and 40 fire engines were operating on the ground, assisted by three planes and five helicopters. The force includes 31 firefighters from Slovakia, with five fire engines.

The main front of the fire is a triangle, with two of its points near the sea and one in the mountains. On maps, each side of the triangle appears more than six miles long.

Three coast guard vessels, plus one from the army, were evacuating people from two beaches. Twenty private boats were assisting and the Greek navy was sending a vessel.

The blaze in Rhodes is just one of several active fires across Greece, Mr Artopios said. The fire north west of Athens and one near Sparta were subsiding, he said, although the conditions, including temperatures set to reach 45C on Sunday and low humidity (below 15 per cent), mean the danger is not over and more wildfires might break out.

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Tourists are evacuated from hotels during a wildfire on the Greek island of Rhodes on July 22, 2023.Tourists are evacuated from hotels during a wildfire on the Greek island of Rhodes on July 22, 2023.
Tourists are evacuated from hotels during a wildfire on the Greek island of Rhodes on July 22, 2023. | Getty

The Fire Service has designated almost the whole eastern part of the mainland, plus the islands of Evia and Rhodes, as well as large swathes of the south west, as category five - the highest for the risk of fire outbreaks on Sunday. There will be a brief respite in the heatwave on Monday, but it will resume on Tuesday and could last until at least Friday, meteorologists have predicted.

Firefighting forces from eight EU countries are either operating or due to arrive soon, Mr Artopios said. Israel, Jordan and Turkey have also sent reinforcements, mostly aerial equipment.

UK government updates travel advice over Greece wildfires

The UK foreign office has updated its travel advice following the wildfires in Greece. A spokesperson said: “There are a number of active wildfires in Greece due to the dry and hot weather. Wildfires are highly dangerous and unpredictable.

“The situation can change quickly, so you should stay up to date with official advice, follow “112 Greece” on Twitter for official updates (you may need to translate the tweets to English).

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Pine trees burn in a wildfire on the Greek island of Rhodes on July 22.Pine trees burn in a wildfire on the Greek island of Rhodes on July 22.
Pine trees burn in a wildfire on the Greek island of Rhodes on July 22. | Eurokinissi/AFP via Getty Images

“Ensure emergency alerts are enabled on your phone to receive SMS updates from the Greek Civil Protection. The Civil Protection Authority also publishes a daily map during the high risk period detailing fire risk by area.

“You should: Causing a forest fire is treated as a criminal offence in Greece even if unintentional. If you see a forest fire, call the emergency services on 112. Forest fires can also cause travel disruption in wider areas. For further information on the risk of forest fires, visit the Civil Protection website.”

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