Greece wildfires: Thousands evacuated from Rhodes homes & hotels as island blaze spreads - travel advice

Hundreds of firefighters from across Europe are battling a wildfire in Rhodes that has forced thousands to flee homes and hotels on the Greek island.

A wildfire on the Greek island of Rhodes has forced authorities to order people in four areas to evacuate, with thousands fleeing seaside resorts and hotels. The blaze has been raging for five days and spread to the island’s central-eastern side today (Saturday, July 22) after being previously confined to its mountainous centre.

The fires have since reached three hotels, local media reported, which have already been evacuated. The Fire Service said that more than 200 firefighters and 40 fire engines were operating on the ground, assisted by five helicopters and three planes.

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The blaze in Rhodes is just one of several active fires ravaging Greece. The fire north west of Athens and one near Sparta are reportedly subsiding, although weather conditions including predicted temperatures of 45C on Sunday along with low humidity (below 15 per cent) mean that more wildfires could break out.

Tourists are evacuated from hotels during a wildfire on the Greek island of Rhodes on July 22, 2023.Tourists are evacuated from hotels during a wildfire on the Greek island of Rhodes on July 22, 2023.
Tourists are evacuated from hotels during a wildfire on the Greek island of Rhodes on July 22, 2023. | Getty

In Rhodes, the main front of the fire is a triangle, with two of its points near the sea and one in the mountains. Three coast guard vessels, plus one from the army, are evacuating people from two beaches. 20 private boats are understood to be assisting as well as the Greek Navy.

The Fire Service has designated almost the whole eastern part of the mainland, plus the islands of Evia and Rhodes, as well as large swathes of the south west, as “category five” - the highest for the risk of fire outbreaks. According to meterologists, there will be a brief dip in the heatwave on Monday, but it will resume on Tuesday and could last until at least Friday.

Firefighters from as far as Slovakia arrived on Rhodes on Saturday to help local teams battle the fires. Slovak Fire and Rescue Services posted on Facebook: “The situation in Rhodes is serious and extremely difficult. Due to the strong wind and quickly changing direction of the fire, firefighters had to withdraw and move.”

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Israel, Jordan and Turkey have also sent reinforcements. No injuries have been reported, according to the Ministry of Climate Crisis and Civil Protection in Greece.

UK government updates travel advice over Greece wildfires

The UK foreign office has updated its travel advice following the wildfires in Greece. A spokesperson said: “There are a number of active wildfires in Greece due to the dry and hot weather. Wildfires are highly dangerous and unpredictable.

“The situation can change quickly, so you should stay up to date with official advice, follow “112 Greece” on Twitter for official updates (you may need to translate the tweets to English).

Pine trees burn in a wildfire on the Greek island of Rhodes on July 22.Pine trees burn in a wildfire on the Greek island of Rhodes on July 22.
Pine trees burn in a wildfire on the Greek island of Rhodes on July 22. | Eurokinissi/AFP via Getty Images

“Ensure emergency alerts are enabled on your phone to receive SMS updates from the Greek Civil Protection. The Civil Protection Authority also publishes a daily map during the high risk period detailing fire risk by area.

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“You should: Causing a forest fire is treated as a criminal offence in Greece even if unintentional. If you see a forest fire, call the emergency services on 112. Forest fires can also cause travel disruption in wider areas. For further information on the risk of forest fires, visit the Civil Protection website.”

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