Tourists evacuated from hotels as wildfires tear through Greek islands (2024)

Firefighters are battling wildfires on Greece’s popular holiday islands of Kos and Chios, where five people have been injured and hundreds of tourists and locals were forced to evacuate from their homes and hotels on Monday night.

Wildfires often break out during the summer months in Greece, but prolonged drought, hotter weather and high winds have all combined to increase their frequency and intensity across the Mediterranean.

Emergency services have ordered householders to evacuate from the Metohi area of western Chios, near Turkey, on Monday, telling them to head to the safety of a nearby beach as the fires approached. More than 140 firefighters, seven planes and three helicopters were involved in trying to tackle the blaze on Monday evening.

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A fire department spokesman, Vasilis Vathrakoyiannis, said two firefighters had been lightly injured, while dozens more were heading to the island by boat from nearby Lesbos and from Athens.

State-run ERT TV later reported that another two firefighters and a volunteer had suffered non life-threatening burns.

“The situation remains difficult in Chios, and all Civil Protection forces will make great efforts to limit it,” Mr Vathrakoyiannis said.

On Kos, further south in the Aegean, locals and visitors in the town of Kardamena were transferred to Antimachia as a precaution.

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An estimated 2,000 British tourists were evacuated from their hotels on Kos, according to Good Morning Britain, with some describing “apocalyptic” conditions, and many having to sleep on the floor of an outdoor football pitch and a sports hall.

Steve Fenwick, a British tourist in Kos, who slept the night on the floor of an indoor basketball court with his family, compared the scene to a film, describing the Greek army handing out blankets, food and water.

Clare Smith, 38, from Edinburgh, who was staying at a hotel outside Kardamena in Kos with her family, told Sky News: “It’s really windy here, it will be like a tinderbox. The sky is covered in smoke. You feel like you’re in the apocalypse, or some sort of war film.”

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She said they received alerts on their phones telling them to relocate due to the fires. The family and other guests at their hotel waited for most of the evening before they were informed it was being evacuated and coaches were sent to pick them up.

More than 100 firefighters were tackling the flames alongside reinforcements, as well as six water-dropping planes and two helicopters, he added.

The wildfire had mostly abated by Tuesday morning, letting people return, and there was no damage to buildings, Christos Efstratiou, deputy governor for the Dodecanese islands, said.

#Kardamena, #Kos: as a precaution people are transferred to #Antimachia

🇬🇧 nationals impacted by the 🔥 should:
▪️ follow 🇬🇷 authorities’ guidance
▪️ carry their passport
▪️ contact their tour operator
▪️ check

24/7 consular assistance 📞: +442070085000

— UK in Greece (@ukingreece) July 1, 2024

He added that in the previous 24-hour period, 52 wildfires had broken out, 44 of which were tackled in the early stages. Authorities were still battling eight fires on Monday evening.

An emergency alert has also been issued for Heraklion on Crete.

At the weekend, firefighters battled three large forest fires near Athens that had been fanned by strong winds and dry conditions, two of which they managed to bring under control.

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Britons in Greece have been warned by the UK embassy to follow instructions of the Greek authorities and check foreign travel advice on the UK government website.

The Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, warned on Monday that Greece would experience a dangerous summer and that the public’s help was essential in limiting the impact of wildfires.

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“We have had an exceptionally difficult June regarding weather conditions, with high levels of drought and unusually strong winds for this season,” he told a cabinet meeting, adding that this summer “is predicted to be particularly dangerous” for wildfires.

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“We are entering the tough core of the anti-fire period, and this will certainly not be won without the help of the public as well, particularly in the field of prevention,” Mr Mitsotakis said.

He said the use of drones as part of an early warning system had been useful this year and credited better co-ordination between authorities and volunteer firefighters for limiting the extent of damage so far.

In 2023, more than 20 people were killed in widespread fires across Greece.

At the weekend, wildfires also continued to tear across the south-east of Turkey amid a severe heatwave during which temperatures surged to over 40°C.

Tourists evacuated from hotels as wildfires tear through Greek islands (2024)
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