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A relentless weeklong Rhodes wildfire has surged past defenses, leading to a big evacuation operation—the largest in Greece’s history. Powerful winds and successive heat waves fueled the blaze and three other significant fires across the country, destroying the beautiful country.
The scale of the disaster prompted authorities to order further evacuations in the south of Rhodes. Over the weekend, approximately 19,000 people, predominantly tourists, were urgently relocated by buses and boats. It was to save people from the advancing inferno that sprawled from nearby mountains and reached several coastal areas.
The ongoing mass evacuation represents an unprecedented emergency response. The neighboring island of Corfu also faced a similar dire situation, with another 2,500 individuals having to be evacuated due to raging fires.
To combat the catastrophic fires, Greece deployed an EU satellite service to assess the extent of the damage and allocate resources effectively. In response to the calamity, the Greek army also joined the effort, establishing temporary shelters and accommodations. The immediate priority is to ensure the safety of citizens and tourists alike.
While there was a slight respite from the blistering heat on Monday, with temperatures reaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit, it is expected to be short-lived. Relief is in sight as Thursday brings significantly cooler weather, with temperatures ranging from the low to mid-30s Celsius (roughly 85 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit).
The scope of the devastation has rallied support from the European Union and other countries. Turkey, Greece’s neighbor, sent firefighting planes to aid the efforts in Rhodes, where visibility was low, and the winds posed a formidable challenge. Ten water-dropping planes and ten helicopters buzzed over flames that reached up to 16 feet tall, making valiant attempts to contain the destructive fire.
It’s worth noting that Rhodes, a beloved holiday destination, attracts around 2.5 million tourists annually. The wildfire’s devastating impact has forced several airlines, including easyJet and Tui, to dispatch planes to evacuate stranded tourists from their hotels. While thousands have sought refuge, it is estimated that between 7,000 and 10,000 British nationals still remain on the island. The situation has also led to complaints from some tourists about a lack of information and assistance from travel companies.
As the wildfire continues to wreak havoc, unaffected parts of Rhodes are witnessing a paradox. Even amidst the evacuation, new visitors are arriving from various European countries to start their holidays at resorts that remain safe from the fire’s grasp, representing about 90% of the island’s total capacity, as confirmed by Greek authorities.
As Greece grapples with this unprecedented wildfire crisis, the united efforts of local authorities, international support, and the resilient spirit of the people are crucial in containing the flames and minimizing further damage.
With climate change as a stark reminder of humanity’s impact on nature, the call for sustainable practices and disaster preparedness has never been more urgent. Rhodes Wildlife now stands on the brink, and the world watches in hope for a swift resolution to this catastrophic event.
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