The Greek holiday island of Rhodes, which is situated in the Aegean Sea several hundred km off the Turkish coast, has seen around 19,000 people evacuated, as wildfires threaten accommodation for locals and tourists alike.
Strong winds have been fanning flames to escalate an already difficult situation, which has been brought about as a result of Greece suffering from searing heat in recent weeks, with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees on a daily basis. Areas have been set ablaze in remote locations and spreading towards the resorts.
Corfu is another Greek Island reporting fires breaking out and they too are evacuating with boats dispatched to take people away from the danger areas by sea.
Airlines and holiday firms are now scrambling to bring their worried customers home, as relatives back home anxiously watch the ever changing landscape.
Repatriation flights are due to arrive over the coming days with some holidaymakers forced to huddle in schools and temporary shelters, after being hurriedly moved out of threatened districts.
Thousands of Brits currently on the island
Rhodes is a popular destination for many Britons and reports suggest that as many as 10,000 tourists are currently on the island. The flames have left trees black and skeletal and the roads around the island littered with dead animals and near burnt-out cars, but so far there have been no reports of any human fatalities.
There are conflicting reports, some suggesting mass confusion and lots of panic, whilst other have praised the evacuation operation. It appears that many had to abandon their belongings and flee on foot in extreme heat as fires spread from the centre of Rhodes towards its eastern coast, where many resort hotels are situated. Lack of communication seems to be the major problem.
Help being deployed
The UK Foreign Office have been advising people that the situation could change very quickly, and for them to follow emergency service guidance. They have sent a five-strong rapid deployment team along with Red Cross workers, to assist British nationals and support travel operators.
Fires in Corfu not as bad
In Corfu the situation is not quite so bad as the fires are still some way off residential areas and seem to be under more control. That hasn’t stopped coast guard vessels needing to come to the rescue of dozens of people from a beach in the north west of the island.
Tourists stopping in specific hotels have been advised to stay where they are and not attempt to travel to the airport until further notice.
Fire service flat out
Greece’s fire service has warned the situation could worsen, not helped by the fact that fires are breaking out all over mainland Greece too, not just on the islands.
Extra flights being put on to bring holidaymakers home
The airlines and holiday firms are frantically putting on additional flights to help with the evacuation. Firms including EasyJet and Jet2 have added to their scheduled departures. Flights in the coming days to the islands have been cancelled by most operators with refunds offered.
Temperatures not likely to fall any time soon
The heatwave is set to continue for the foreseeable future with red weather warning still in place for temperatures to remain above 40C. It is the added strong north-westerly winds that are creating the additional problems, with gusts in excess of 30mph expected for the next few days, which make controlling the fires more difficult.
National holiday cancelled
Olga Kefalogianni, tourism minister for Greece has tried to put a reassuring voice to the situation. She said people should still aim to come out to the islands as the position should soon change.
A national holiday due to take place across Greece on Monday 24 July has been cancelled “in view of the extraordinary conditions prevailing in the country due to the fires.”
Maybe Ms Kefalogianni should have been made aware of that line of thinking before issuing her own statement.