Wildfires in Greece prompt massive evacuations, leaving tourists in limbo

Severe wildfires in Greece are leading to large-scale evacuations, particularly on the islands of Rhodes and Corfu, with many tourists left in difficult circumstances.

Emergency situation: Greece’s wildfires have led to large-scale evacuations.
* The heat wave since mid-July has contributed to the severity of the wildfires, with temperatures exceeding 104 degrees Fahrenheit on some islands and possibly arson.
* Approximately 19,000 people left Rhodes over the weekend in what Greek authorities are calling “the largest evacuation from a wildfire in the country.”
* Another 2,400 locals and visitors were evacuated from Corfu as a precautious measure.

Tourist’s plight: The wildfires have greatly impacted tourists on the islands.
* During peak tourist season, many visitors, especially those from the UK, are stranded trying to get home.
* Thousands of British tourists are on the affected islands and many have had to walk long distances in the heat to reach safety or find shelter in schools, conference centers and airports till they get a flight home.
* As a result, UK airlines Jet2 and Tui have halted incoming flights to Rhodes indefinitely and are using the return flights to evacuate stranded tourists.

Official response: Efforts are being made by domestic and international groups to manage the situation and to put out the fires.
* Firefighters are receiving help from several countries to control the situation and the Greek foreign ministry has also put together a crisis management unit to aid foreign citizen evacuations.
* Greece has received aircraft from Egypt, Turkey, Jordan and Israel for firefighting, and numerous European countries have deployed firefighters and equipment.
* The British government has sent teams to Rhodes airport to aid citizens with documentation and logistics.

Climate Connection: Experts suggest the frequency of wildfires in Greece is being exacerbated by climate change.
* Fires occur annually but this year’s simultaneous fires across different fronts make the situation harder to handle.
* Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis claims that climate change’s presence will result in greater natural disasters across the Mediterranean region.

View original article on NPR

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