Fires in Greece: thousands of tourists evacuated in chaos on Rhodes and Corfu

After the island of Rhodes, where fires continue to burn hectares of vegetation, the tourist island of Corfu is hit by violent forest fires. They led to the evacuation of several thousand tourists overnight from Sunday to Monday.


The flames are raging in Greece. Greek firefighters continued, on Monday 24 July, to fight forest fires fanned by the heat wave. An unprecedented evacuation of thousands of European holidaymakers has taken place on the islands of Rhodes and Corfu.

The wildfire led to the “precautionary evacuation of 2,466 people” between the night of Sunday July 23 and Monday July 24 in Corfu, said Yannis Artopios, a spokesman for the fire service, stressing that no houses or hotels had been destroyed so far.

A raging fire on the tourist island of Rhodes in the southeastern Aegean also led to the evacuation of 30,000 tourists this time on Saturday, “the largest operation (of this type) ever carried out in Greece,” according to authorities.

Above this island, the sky was filled with thick smoke and hills covered in charred vegetation, according to the images by an AFP videographer.

Evacuations in chaos

“We had to walk relentlessly. We walked for about six hours in the heat,” Kelly Squirrel, a British tourist, told AFP, who said police ordered people from her hotel in Rhodes to evacuate.

Here among the tourists waiting to be repatriated, Daniel-Cladin Schimdt, a 42-year-old German who came on holiday with his wife and their nine-year-old son to the coast at Kiotari, south-east of Rhodes, experienced “a nightmarish evacuation”. “We are exhausted and traumatized. I don’t think we really understand what happened,” he told AFP.

“We received a first message from the authorities on Saturday at 1:30 p.m., then the hotel alarm started ringing and we were evacuated to the beach,” he recalls. “There were thousands of people, the buses couldn’t pass, we had to walk for more than two hours (…) We couldn’t breathe, we covered our faces to move on. It’s a miracle,” he says.

Kevin Sales, describes him, a “terrible” situation. “We had to borrow a woman’s clothes from my wife because she had nothing to wear,” the English engineer told AFP.

Rhodes, which had 2.5 million visitors in 2022, is one of Greece’s top holiday destinations with numerous hotels along its eastern shores.

Temperatures above 46°C on Corfu

From dawn on Monday morning, two helicopters and two water bombers resumed their operation to support firefighters on this Dodecanese island, which was ravaged by flames for the seventh consecutive day.

In Corfu, the authorities have warned residents and holidaymakers in many small towns via an alarm message on mobile phones to leave their homes “for safety’s sake”.

The fire broke out on Sunday and continues to burn the forest in the north of this Ionian Sea island, with some “62 firefighters supported by two helicopters and two water bombers operating on Monday”, according to the fire service.

Greece has been hit by one of the longest heatwaves in decades, with temperatures reaching locally above 46°C on Sunday, and has been hit by forest fires since last week.


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