A massive wildfire erupted on the picturesque Greek island of Rhodes, forcing the evacuation of thousands of tourists and residents from coastal villages and resorts. The ferocious flames, fanned by strong winds, led to the evacuation of popular beach areas and ancient ruins in the southeastern part of the island. Tour operators Jet2 and TUI cancelled flights as holidaymakers sought to escape the rapidly spreading wildfire.
Coastguard vessels and private boats were deployed to rescue more than 2,000 tourists from beaches as the wildfire rapidly approached seaside villages like Kiotari, Gennadi, Pefki, Lindos, Lardos, and Kalathos. The situation led to one of the largest evacuation operations the country has ever witnessed. Under a blood-red sky, crowds gathered in the streets waiting for safe transportation as smoke blanketed deserted beaches.
Over 19,000 people were relocated from their homes and hotels, with 3,000 of them being rescued by boats. Fortunately, there have been no reported casualties. However, the flames caused extensive damage, necessitating accommodations for around 4,000 to 5,000 individuals in various structures. The Greek foreign ministry set up a help desk at Rhodes airport to assist tourists, including those who lost their travel documents.
Firefighters, supported by 15 aircraft, battled fiercely to contain the fire that charred the hillside and threatened buildings near Lindos, a popular site on the island. Civil protection issued warnings of a very high risk of wildfires across almost half of Greece, with temperatures expected to reach scorching levels.
Climate change has exacerbated the frequency and intensity of wildfires in Greece, and the situation is expected to persist as heatwaves continue to impact Southern Europe and other regions globally. With the threat of fires ongoing, residents and tourists sought refuge in hotels, indoor stadiums, conference centers, and school buildings. Firefighters continued their efforts to control the three fire fronts, creating firebreaks to safeguard the forest and residential areas.
As the situation remains critical, the Greek authorities, assisted by foreign embassies, are working tirelessly to ensure the safety and well-being of those affected by the devastating wildfire on Rhodes.