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New York Times
22 Jul 2023

NextImg:Wildfires Imperil Greek Isle of Rhodes, Forcing Big Evacuation

Greek Coast Guard vessels on Saturday moved to evacuate hundreds of tourists and locals from the island of Rhodes after five-day-old wildfires spread toward seaside villages.

A 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 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.

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. Social media postings showed that many visitors had fled their hotels without any possessions. Some were still in their bathing suits.

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 family, said in a message on Twitter that they had walked a little more than miles along the coast to the Atlantica Hotel along with hundreds of others.

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. “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.