May 30, 2024
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By Helena Smith 
Kyriakos mitsotakis warned the parliament of difficult times ahead after fires raged on Evia and Corfu.

Greece’s war on fire is evident during the chaotic evacuation of tourists from Rhodes

KyriakosMitsotakis, warning the parliament of difficult times ahead as fires burn on Evia Island and Corfu island

Firefighters in Greece struggled for seven straight days to control wildfires despite scenes of chaos caused by the largest evacuation of tourists ever on fire-ravaged Rhodes.

Water-dropping aircraft were used to fight fires around the clock. KyriakosMitsotakis said that the country is in a fire war, and efforts are being made to douse fires on Evia, Corfu, Rhodes, as well.

The leader of the center-right party said that as long conditions continue to be difficult, there will still be an uneven battle.

He warned of the “three days that lie ahead” and said, “We are at war with Fire.”

Authorities ordered evacuations of hotels and residences as wind-whipped fires scorched parched land.

Overnight, 2 466 residents of 17 villages on Corfu’s north coast fled, an area that is popular among villa owners from Britain, while hundreds left communities in Evia.

The evacuation was described as being the largest in Greek history. 19,000 people, mostly tourists, were evacuated by land and water to the north of the island due to infernos that had swept through resort areas to the south-east.

Tourists recounted their experiences of being driven to the beaches by army trucks at night, before they were placed in panic on Greek navy vessels.

Many complained of poor service from tour operators who were “invisible”, despite having paid thousands to stay at five-star hotels.

Travel companies flew in British tourists as late as Saturday evening, after it became clear that the fires had raged uncontrollably over a wide swath on the island.

Greece had its warmest weekend in fifty years. Conditions of heat, wind, and dryness are “superfood” for wildfires.

Wildfire season in Europe has increased by two weeks due to climate change caused by humans.

Officials from Athens Civil Protection said that they were forced to implement what they termed a “precautionary” operation in order to remove tourists away from Rhodes because of strong winds.

Mitsotakis said to MPs Monday that “our priority will always remain human life”. He recalled the tragic fires which ravaged Mati east of Athens almost five years earlier, resulting in the deaths of 102 people. He said that organizing evacuations is now second nature after Mati.

Government experts will be flying to Rhodes in the next few days to evaluate the damage, which should prove to be very costly. Compensation can then begin. It is believed that fires have destroyed many homes, businesses and arable plots.

Right now, Greece’s image as a destination for tourists is the main focus.

Most of the British tourists who evacuated hotels on Rhodes were from Britain.

Olga Kefalogianni insisted on Monday that despite the fact that fires broke out in Corfu and Rhodes on Sunday, it was still not alarming.

The Greek Army transport planes continued to work through the night in order to deliver camp beds, sleeping bag and other essential supplies to Rhodes before late Sunday.

There were thousands sleeping rough on the island over the weekend. They either slept at the airport, or they slept in temporary shelters like schools and conference rooms.

The officials hope the items brought into the country will help them to live a bit easier before returning home.

Locals on Rhodes were happy to offer their houses to evacuated families.

Greek Government sources confirmed that 1,489 British tourists, Germans and Italians were repatriated as of 6am Monday morning. They added that this had helped to ease airport chaos.

Jet2 is adding four additional flights to its Monday night schedule in an attempt to get Britons back home.

The global firefighting force has arrived in Greece in order to help put out the flames.

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