Thousands of tourists fly home as wildfires rage in Greece

Rhodes July 24 (BNA): Tour operators flew more than 2,000 holidaymakers home Monday as wildfires ravaged the island of Rhodes in what the Greek government said was the largest evacuation ever undertaken in the country.


According to Reuters, more return flights were scheduled for Monday and Tuesday as the fires remained out of control and the Civil Protection Authority warned that the risk of further fires was high in almost all parts of Greece, amid a heat wave.


The fires raging since Wednesday in Rhodes have forced 19,000 people to leave their homes and hotels for the weekend as inferno descends on the coastal resorts in the southeast of the island. A massive fire also prompted evacuations on the island of Corfu.


Rhodes and Corfu are among the top destinations in Greece for tourists from Britain and Germany.


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


“The climate crisis is already here, and it will manifest itself everywhere in the Mediterranean with even greater catastrophes.”


After leaving hotels and resorts, many tourists spent the night on the floor of Rhodes Airport, waiting for return flights, the first of which left overnight.


The Greek Ministry of Transport said 2,115 tourists returned home from Sunday until 3 p.m. (1200 GMT), most of them to Britain, Germany and Italy on 17 flights. Government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis described the evacuation as the largest in the country.

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British Foreign Secretary Andrew Mitchell estimated that up to 10,000 Britons were on the island.


At Cologne Bonn Airport, returning German tourists who spoke of holidays in the sun turned into agony, one relating to how her family had to walk 11 kilometers (7 miles) to safety.


Others expressed relief at the escape. But for the locals, there was no stopping.


In the southern resort of Kiotari, smoke billowed across its empty beach and a Greek flag waved over a burning truck. Many local residents have taken refuge in a restaurant near the coast, fearing for their homes. Others poured seawater into a large tank piled on a truck to fight the flames.



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