16.1 C
Tuesday, September 26, 2023
HomeSportsAs bushfires rage in Greece, tourists flee and locals take shelter

As bushfires rage in Greece, tourists flee and locals take shelter


Tourists wait for planes to depart at the airport, after being evacuated after a forest fire on the island of Rhodes, Greece, July 24, 2023. REUTERS

RHODES, Greece — More than 2,000 tourists returned home Monday, tour operators canceled upcoming trips and residents took shelter as wildfires ripped through the Greek island of Rhodes for the seventh day.

Repatriation flights are due to continue until Tuesday as the fires remained out of control. The Civil Protection authority warned that the threat of more fires was high in almost all parts of Greece, which is in the midst of an unprecedented heat wave that has also caused the closure of archaeological sites.

TUI, one of the world’s largest tour operators, said it will cancel trips to the island through Friday and offer free cancellations or rebookings to other destinations. He said he had 39,000 customers in Rhodes as of Sunday night.

On Monday, it deployed six additional planes to take tourists to Britain and Germany. The Greek islands are popular with sun-seeking tourists from all over Europe in the summer, and particularly the British and Germans.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry issued a travel warning for Rhodes, as well as for the islands of Corfu and Evia, where forest fires also broke out.

Some 20,000 people were forced to leave their homes and hotels in Rhodes over the weekend as the inferno that began last Tuesday reached coastal resorts in the southeast of the island.

A fire brigade spokesman said hundreds more people were evacuated from two other areas of Rhodes on Monday and seven firefighting planes would continue to fight the flames until nightfall.

“Firefighting forces have not stopped operating since Tuesday,” spokesman Ioanis Artopios told Reuters. “Teams have flown in from Athens to replace their colleagues…they are working in very tough conditions in extreme heat.”

Greek coast guard ships have also been patrolling the coast and evacuated some tourists by sea over the weekend.

The Greek government said authorities were carrying out the largest evacuation ever in the country.

“During the next few weeks we must be on constant alert. We are in war. We will rebuild what we lost, we will compensate those who were injured,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told parliament.

“The climate crisis is already here, it will manifest itself in all parts of the Mediterranean with major disasters,” he said.

After checking out of hotels and resorts, many tourists spent Sunday night on the floor of the Rhodes airport, waiting for repatriation flights.

From Sunday to 3:00 p.m. (1200 GMT) Monday, 2,115 tourists traveled home, mainly to Britain, Germany and Italy, on 17 flights, the Greek Transport Ministry said.

At Cologne-Bonn airport, returning German tourists talked about vacations in the sun turning into torment, with one recounting how his family had to walk 7 miles (11 km) to safety.

“We wanted to drink and people were standing in their houses and spraying us with their hoses and we drank from the hoses. Everyone was walking and we didn’t know where,” Violetta Kaczmarzyk told Reuters.

Others expressed relief that they had escaped.

However, for local residents, there was no letup.

In the southern resort of Kiotari, smoke hung over its empty beach and a charred Greek flag fluttered above a burned-out truck. Many local residents took refuge in a restaurant near the coast, fearing for their homes. Others poured seawater into a large tank stacked on a truck to fight the flames.

“The wind is very strong today. It will be worse on Wednesday. The situation is very, very bad. We need help. Send us help from everywhere,” said local resident Lanai Karpataki.

Concerns for the future of tourism

TUI, Britain’s easyJet and Jet 2 were placed on additional flights. Air France also flew from Rhodes with greater capacity.

Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O’Leary said his airline had not seen passengers trying to cancel flights to Rhodes over the weekend, as the fires were more in the south of the island and the airport and most of the resorts in the north.

Greece is often hit by wildfires during the summer months, but climate change has brought more extreme heatwaves to southern Europe, raising concerns that tourists will stay away.

Tourism accounts for 18% of Greece’s GDP and one in five jobs. On Rhodes and many other Greek islands, the dependence on tourism is even greater.

In a report on Monday, ratings agency Moody’s warned that heat waves could reduce southern Europe’s attractiveness as a long-term tourist destination, or at least summer demand, hurting the region’s economy.


Fire continues to burn on the Greek island of Rhodes as dozens more erupt across the country

Thousands of people moved to safety as wildfires rage on the Greek island of Rhodes

Your subscription could not be saved. Try again.

Your subscription has been successful.

read next

Don’t miss out on the latest news and information.

subscribe to ASK MORE to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer and more than 70 other titles, share up to 5 devices, listen to the news, download from 4 am and share articles on social networks. Call 896 6000.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

Latest stories