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Saturday, December 9, 2023

The fire in Rhodes and the largest evacuation in Greek history. “We operate in very difficult conditions”

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A raging fire, evacuated tourists, canceled flights and holidays. The Greek island of Rhodes is battling the elements. Photos from a tourist paradise resemble hell. The fire is not under control. The 40 degree heat doesn’t help. Flights to Rhodes are being canceled by Jet2 and the TUI travel agency is canceling booked holidays. There are Poles from five travel agencies in Rhodes.

On Friday they flew to Rhodes on holiday, and on Saturday they had to flee the hotel. An uncontrollable fire began to rage on a Greek island, and clouds of acrid smoke appeared.

Mr. Jakub Jankowski, together with dozens of other tourists from Poland, the Czech Republic and Great Britain, was evacuated from Lardos in the central-eastern part of the island to Afandou in the north. There, he temporarily found shelter in a wedding hall provided by the Greek government.

– In fact, we were brought here in the middle of the night and we do not know what will happen to us next, we have not received any information – says Jakub Jankowski. – The only plus is that we can stay here in an air-conditioned room – he adds.

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– We’ve been here for hours. Our path was not easy, many people are simply exhausted, tired – says Jakub Jankowski in his recording, which shows tourists gathered in the hall.

Mass evacuation

The Grecos Holiday travel agency, which organized the stay, replied to an email that the situation affected several hundred customers and was being resolved on an ongoing basis. “We are working hard to organize additional opportunities to return to Poland and find additional places in hotels in the north of the island, where customers will be able to continue their holidays – depending on their decision” – we read.

Mr. Marcin Nowomiejski is still staying in Rhodes. Until Saturday he spent his holiday in Kiotari. Around 2 p.m. local time, he received a call alert for a mandatory evacuation.

– We were told to get on motorboats, from which we were transported to larger cruise ships, because they were involved in the entire evacuation – says Marcin Nowomiejski. – We spent the night in large conference rooms, on the floors, everyone coped as they could. (…) We plan to return tomorrow. We have received information that perhaps the plane will be organized earlier – he adds.

It was in Kiotari that three hotels were damaged. Fortunately, people managed to leave them. – We noticed that the sea was starting to turn black with soot. In fact, people were coming out of the sea noticing that ash was falling on their heads, reports Ian Murison, a British tourist staying in Rhodes.

The evacuations ordered by the Greek authorities concerned Lardos, Kiotari and Pefkos. It was partly run by the Army and Coast Guard

Tourists also left places at risk of fire by coaches, to which gigantic queues formed. In total, the evacuation involved 19,000 people and was the largest such operation in the history of the country so far. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

Polish firefighters help in action

On Sunday at noon, TUI travel agency said it was canceling all booked trips to Rhodes up to and including July 25. Grecos Holiday has offered customers who are to start their holidays in Rhodes next Monday the possibility of canceling the reservation without any consequences, as well as changing the offer or date.

There is a heatwave in Greece. Temperatures could reach 45 degrees Celsius in places on Sunday. Strong gusts of wind, which often change direction, make it difficult to control the fires. Polish firefighters are also fighting the fire in the vicinity of Athens.

– We operate in very difficult weather conditions. Today, the forecasted temperatures are up to 45 degrees in the shade. All devices are overheating, rescuers are also overheating, they are tired – says Brigadier Grzegorz Borowiec, commander of the action in Greece.

Greece’s civil defense warned on Sunday of a very high fire risk in an area covering almost half of the country. Heatwaves in southern Europe and many other parts of the world can last into August.

Main photo source: Private archive

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