Wildfires in Europe's south cause damage, evacuations

2023-07-26 11:07:35China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Thousands of people have been evacuated from the Greek islands of Rhodes and Corfu as wildfires wreak havoc across the country, while a blaze in Sicily, Italy forced the closure of its Palermo airport.

Temperatures in Greece have exceeded 40 C this month, with fires burning for nearly a week in some areas, and Europe recorded its hottest day so far this year on Monday, with 48 C measured in Sicily.

British travel companies canceled flights to Rhodes this week as wildfires continued to rage for a seventh day on the Greek island.

Concerns are also mounting that escalating winds and high temperatures could intensify the fires across the nation, reported The Times newspaper. It said authorities remain on alert, with more than 270 firefighters reported to be trying to contain 82 wildfires across Greece, 64 of which started on Sunday.

Agence France-Presse reported that around 2,500 people were also being evacuated from the island of Corfu, some 1,027 kilometers away, while the island of Crete is also now reported to be at "extreme risk" of raging wildfires.

Thousands of vacationers have arrived back in the United Kingdom from Rhodes, returned on repatriation flights, with an estimated 10,000 Britons still believed to be on the island, as of early Tuesday.

The BBC reported that travel companies, including Jet2, Thomas Cook, EasyJet and Tui, have suspended outbound package holidays to Rhodes.

Sky News cited a wildfires expert who said poorly-managed land and the effects of climate change have created "more flammable landscapes" on Greek islands.

During a debate in Parliament, Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis warned islanders and holidaymakers to prepare for at least three more hard days. "We are at war — completely focused on the fires," he said. "Over the coming days and weeks, we must remain on constant alert." He also said climate change "will make its presence ever more felt with greater natural disasters throughout the Mediterranean region".

Despite calls to change its official travel advice on Greece, the UK government refrained from modifying guidance to warn against all but necessary travel to the impacted regions.

Officials from the UK's Foreign Office and Department for Transport on Monday sought assurances from senior airline and tour operators that stranded tourists were being assisted.

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly stated that a Rapid Deployment Team, consisting of Foreign Office and Red Cross responders, is in Rhodes to assist British citizens.

Parts of Rhodes have been devastated by the blazes that have damaged homes and businesses, and forced many holidaymakers to sleep in schools, airports, and sports centers.

The Times reported that several island resorts have suffered catastrophic damage, leading to uncertainty over their reopening this summer, leaving tens of thousands of British vacationers facing their holidays being canceled altogether.

Frefighting planes from Turkiye joined the effort to tackle the fires on Rhodes on Monday.


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