Massive wildfires on the Greek island of Rhodes led 19,000 people to flee their hotels since Saturday.
The country’s government called the operation the largest effort of this type the Hellenic Republic has ever seen, stressing that a total of 16,000 people, taking into account both tourists and residents, were transported by land and 3,000 by sea.
Greek officials also considered the evacuation the largest one registered in the country’s history.
Local media reports say that Europe risks facing a second heatwave, expected to bring further extreme weather starting from Tuesday.
According to a report from CNN, the wildfire in the central and southern parts of Rhodes has been burning since Tuesday.
Central Greece vice-governor Giorgos Kelaiditis told state agency ANA-MPA that it was a difficult situation in Rhodes.
“The fire may be 2km (1.2 miles) away, but the wind is strong, the growth is low, the smoke thick, and the air is hard to breathe,” he pointed out.
According to the fire service, Croatia, Turkey, and Egypt are assisting the Greek firefighting forces.
Schools, hotels, as well as sports and conference centers have been activated in safe parts of the island in order to evacuate persons.
According to a CNN report, the Foreign Ministry of Greece will set up a dedicated helpdesk in order to assist tourists on their return to their respective states. Besides, tour operators have ordered charter flights to land on Rhodes Island without travellers to pick up passengers who leave the island.
Fire officials said that eight people had been taken to hospital after experiencing respiratory problems.
Fires are also burning on the islands of Corfu and Evia, which led Greece’s emergency services to issue evacuation orders for several parts of Corfu.
As a result of the current situation, TUI holiday company announced that it temporarily suspended new arrivals into affected hotels in Corfu for Monday and Tuesday.
A TUI spokesperson said that the decision came following the lead of the Corfu fire service, which requested a small number of hotels to be evacuated and is helping guests from the affected hotels at a nearby evacuation center.
“New TUI arrivals to the affected hotels will be contacted directly by our teams and provided with alternative options if required,” a TUI spokesperson said.
The Minister of Tourism in Greece, Olga Kefalogianni, said that the situation in Corfu is not alarming, in spite of the fact that more than 2,000 people have been evacuated up to this point.