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Greek Coast Guard vessels on Saturday evacuated hundreds of tourists and locals trapped in seaside villages on Rhodes that were threatened by five-day-old wildfires, moving them to safer parts of the island.
A Greek Navy warship was en route to join the five Greek Coast Guard vessels and two army boats that were being aided by 30 private vessels in the area, according to a Coast Guard statement.
A Coast Guard spokesman, Nikos Alexiou, said around 2,000 people had been evacuated by sea from southeastern Rhodes. “Most have been rescued but the operation is continuing,” he told Greek television, adding that Coast Guard boats were patrolling the area, along with a helicopter.
Thousands more people on Rhodes were evacuated over land to other parts of the island. George Hatzimarkos, the regional governor for the south Aegean, said about 7,500 people had been relocated.
Rhodes is one of Greece’s most popular summer vacation destinations, particularly for Britons, who favor it for its long, sandy coastlines and vibrant nightlife.
Television footage showed tourists dragging suitcases along the road and residents helping transfer them to coastal areas in pickup trucks. Other coverage showed people standing on a beach with their suitcases, awaiting rescue boats.
The deputy mayor of Rhodes, Konstantinos Taraslias, told Greek television that some tourists had been taken to the island’s airport and others to schools and stadiums. Some were being temporarily housed at other hotels.
Paul Kalburgi, a British playwright and screenwriter who was staying at the Lindos Imperial with his husband and two sons, said in a message on Twitter that they had walked a little more than four miles along the coast to the Atlantica Hotel along with hundreds of others.
He and his family then left the Atlantica in a second evacuation, with locals taking them some of the way, but then they had to trudge more than a mile to another hotel, he said in a text message that suggested a somewhat disorganized rescue effort.
“The hotel told us to board buses to other hotels — no information why specifically — we all moved to the street as instructed but buses didn’t come,” he said. “Then the Red Cross instructed us to get into a car since we had children.”
Earlier Mr. Kalburgi posted a desperate note on Twitter as he and his family, wet towels pressed to their faces, had abandoned the Lindos Imperial and sought to avoid the advancing flames.
Greek media said that at least three hotels had been damaged by the fire.
The blaze on Rhodes is one of hundreds to have broken out across Greece this week, fueled by tinder dry conditions as a second heat wave takes hold of the country, with temperatures set to reach 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) in central Greece on Sunday.
Two large blazes that had been burning for days west of Athens and in the southern Peloponnese peninsula, destroying scores of homes and razing thousands of hectares of forestland, had been mostly contained on Saturday, Greece’s fire service spokesman, Ioannis Artopios, said.
But the blaze on Rhodes was taxing firefighters because of intense heat, dry conditions and strong winds. “It’s the most difficult fire we’re facing,” Mr. Artopios said, adding that the service had ordered the evacuation of four villages in the island’s southeast earlier on Saturday.
As night fell, he said ground forces would spend the night battling the blazes, which had three active fronts, with aircraft to resume the effort at first light on Sunday.
Posted on 22 Jul 2023 21:34 link