HOLIDAY FLIGHTS CANCELLED
Greece has been battered by an extended spell of extreme heat and fires have burned for nearly a week on Rhodes.
On Rhodes, winds of up to 49km per hour complicated efforts to bring the flames under control.
“This is the biggest fire evacuation ever in Greece,” Konstantia Dimoglidou, Greek police spokeswoman told AFP of the Rhodes operation. “We had to evacuate an area of 30,000 people.”
Police said the authorities had transported 16,000 people across land, and evacuated 3,000 by sea. Others had to flee by road or used their own transport after being told to leave the area.
German travel giant Tui said it was suspending all its inbound passenger flights to Rhodes until Tuesday but would send empty planes to help evacuate tourists.
Spokesperson Linda Jonczyk told AFP that Tui had some 40,000 tourists in Rhodes, of which 7,800 are affected by the fires.
The low-cost British carrier Jet2 also said it had cancelled “all flights and holidays” to the island.
Authorities have warned that the battle to contain the flames will take several days.
More than 260 firefighters, backed by 18 aircraft, were battling the fire on Sunday, with Croatia, France, Slovakia and Turkey having contributed equipment and personnel, officials said.
Last year Rhodes, which has a population of over 100,000, welcomed some 2.5 million tourists.
The fires reached the village of Laerma during the night, engulfing houses and a church, while many hotels were damaged by flames that had reached the coast. The authorities evacuated 11 villages overnight as a precaution.
On Sunday the blaze was burning along three active fronts – including on the southeast coast of the island where firefighters tried to prevent the blaze from crossing a creek.
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