Horror of wildfires in Greece forces thousands of holidaymakers to flee

Thousands of holidaymakers are facing a distressing and overwhelming situation as wildfires engulf parts of the Greek island of Rhodes. Tourists recount their experiences as a “living nightmare.” As reported by the authorities in Athens, the wildfire, which started seven days ago, resulted in the largest evacuation ever witnessed in the history of Greece.

A forest fire in Rhodes forced thousands of people to evacuate over the weekend. Many of them are tourists. The fire, which reached the eastern coastal towns of Kiotari, Jenadi and the resort of Lardos, engulfed many hotels. More than 30,000 people had to flee the fire, according to information provided on Sunday by local MP Panagiotis Dimelis. 

The evacuation of tourists staying on the Greek island of Rhodes, including many Poles, is underway. As one of the tourists said, the action is chaotic, there is information chaos. There are fears that the fire will spread to the northern part of the island.

Hotels in the northern part of the island, where the fire has not yet reached, are running out of shelter for those evacuated from the south.


According to the stories of compatriots, evacuated individuals are finding temporary shelter in gyms, hotel lobbies, and congress halls situated in secure zones. Some tourists even had to be rescued directly from the beach while wearing their bathing suits.

A Polish tourist who rested in Rhodes tells about her experience: “We were evacuated at night to Lindos, to a ‘transhipment place’, where more transports appeared. There were a lot of people there, huge chaos, lack of organisation and management of such a crisis. (…) People are at the end of their endurance. (…) Due to the lack of clear communication, it has forced many people to evacuate on their own, and the situation is not improving.”

“My departure is planned for July 31, I don’t know what my chances are of returning to the country earlier. There is also no information whether we will get any place in hotels or we will continue to camp on the floor” – she said.

She further mentioned that while the northern parts of Rhodes are currently considered safe, tourists are being informed that there is a possibility of the fire gradually spreading in that direction.

Another Polish tourist and her group were relocated to a different hotel, where they had to spend one night sleeping outdoors since there were no available rooms to accommodate them. “The next day we were taken to a sports hall on the outskirts of Rhodes and now we sleep on the floor, on mattresses. The conditions are very average, she said. However, the tourist admitted that the Greek volunteers delegated to help are up to the task. – They help, they brought all sorts of things, because a lot of tourists were escaping in bathing suits, they had to flee just as they were standing. This cannot actually be called an evacuation, but an escape. There were people who told me that they felt fire behind their backs, heat, ashes. And they ran away with virtually nothing” – she said.

Michał, one more Polish tourist, described how the evacuation proceeded –  “First they told us to go outside the hotel. The organisers of the tour could not be contacted. The residents seem to have disappeared. They took us from the hotel to the town of Lindos on the buses of the Greek public transport company, and from there to the sports hall some 15 kilometres to the north, he said. As he said, the sports hall was not completely prepared. The Greeks began to help, bringing water and food.”

Meanwhile, concerns also arise for up to 10,000 British tourists who might be present on the fire-ravaged Greek island of Rhodes. A minister expresses fear about their safety, while a holidaymaker, who arrived to find their hotel reduced to ashes, recounts the situation as a dreadful “living nightmare.”

The evacuation order in Rhodes came after Jet2 and Tui cancelled all flights to Rhodes until Friday 28 July.

Corfu is the second Greek island to launch major evacuations due to wildfires after a weekend of chaos in Rhodes.

Local authorities issued a warning that now also Crete faces an “extreme risk” of wildfires, with blazes continuing to spread across Greece, and the island being the next potential target. 

Starting Friday, a team of 149 Polish firefighters with 49 vehicles departed from Kraków, heading to Greece to aid in the efforts to extinguish forest fires.


According to the deputy mayor of Rhodes, the fires on the island are still “uncontrollable,” and they have already compelled 19,000 residents to evacuate their homes.


Prof Guillermo Rein, professor of fire science, Imperial College London, said: “The combination of heat, wind and people in the Mediterranean is mortal. There have always been wildfires in the South but climate change is making them larger, faster, and harder to stop.”

Author: Patrycja Bodzek-Kurzyńska

Photo: Twitter / @ChinaDaily

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