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Wildfires raging on the popular Greek holiday island of Rhodes prompted authorities to evacuate 19,000 tourists and residents from danger zones. in what officials have described as the largest ever preventive fire evacuation in the country’s history.
At least 164 fires have been burning in 58 locations across the island over the past 24 hours. This was announced by the Greek fire brigade on Sundayas residents were forced to leave their homes and summer vacations turned into chaotic nightmares. No casualties were reported, according to officials at the country’s Ministry of Climate Crisis and Disaster Relief.
The fires come at a time when parts of southern Europe are suffering from a heatwave that has forced many countries, including Greece, to issue warnings as temperatures top 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).
Other fires have broken out in Greece this month, including in Athens, where the Acropolis was closed to tourists on July 15. More than 100 homes and businesses were badly damaged in the fire in Athens and another nearby, Portal reported, citing local authorities.
Heatwave in Europe triggers multiple warnings and closes Greek Acropolis
In response to the recent wildfires, airlines TUI and Jet2 announced on Sunday they were canceling flights to Rhodes as tourists on the island documented their experiences on social media.
The Deputy Mayor of Rhodes, Athanasios Vyrinis, warned on Sunday that the authorities were making great efforts to deal with the large number of evacuees. “There’s only water and some rudimentary food – we don’t have mattresses and beds,” he said, according to the BBC, adding that some people slept in cardboard boxes.
Taking to Twitter, some tourists shared how they fled holiday resorts on the island – grabbing their children and running – when fires broke out in their hotels, while others spent the night in makeshift shelters, sleeping on mattresses on the floor.
“We’re safe for now,” said one tourist, Dan Jones, wrote on Twitter alongside a photo of three young children sitting on a boat with an orange sky behind them. “After wading out to sea and climbing onto a fishing trawler, we’re out of harm’s way,” Jones said, describing the experience as “the scariest moment of my entire life” and thanking the locals who came to his family’s aid.
Last week, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called off his visit to Brussels and returned to Greece, while other nations, including Cyprus and Israel, pledged aid to the country. France and Italy sent planes to help fight the fire, while Slovakia dispatched around 30 firefighters and five fire engines.
In a Sunday updateGreek authorities described the “extreme climatic conditions” prevailing across the country – which has been muggy in recent weeks – and warned that “even the smallest fire can turn into a major natural disaster”.
Last year, a UN report concluded that the risk of uncontrollable wildfires is increasing around the world as greenhouse gas emissions rise. Even with drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the risk would increase by 50 percent by the end of the century, according to a UN analysis.
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