Greece has been fighting wildfires for almost two weeks. As temperatures have frequently climbed above 40˚C, reaching 46˚C on the hottest days, and air humidity is lower than 15%, wildfires are igniting across the country. Combined with strong winds spreading the flames, Greece is “at war” with the yet to be tamed disaster.
Over the past two weeks, about 50 new wildfires have broken out every day in Greece, with a record of 64 on Sunday, government spokesperson Pavlos Marinakis has informed. “We are in the seventh day of the fire and it hasn’t been controlled”, Rhodes Deputy Mayor Konstantinos Taraslias told Greek state TV ERT on Monday, as evacuations were ordered.
For the next few weeks we must be on constant alert. We are at war. The climate crisis is already here, it will manifest itself everywhere in the Mediterranean with greater disasters.Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greek Prime Minister
Firefighting efforts are being supported by other EU members, as well as Türkiye, Egypt, Israel and Jordan, who are sending brigades, trucks, planes and helicopters. However, the arid conditions combined with the increased number of ignition areas are impeding efforts of keeping the situation under control. “It’s something that happens every year, to be honest, but this year it’s simultaneously in so many different fronts”, Financial Times reporter Eleni Varvitsioti told Athens’ Morning Edition.
The most affected areas are the islands of Rhodes and Corfu. Although authorities have said the fire only covers about 10% of Rhodes’ surface, 19,000 people, mostly tourists, have been evacuated from the island, 16,000 by land and 3,000 by sea, in the country’s largest evacuation operation to date. Over the night, on Sunday, almost 2,500 visitors and locals were evacuated from Corfu, while hundreds more have been moved from the island of Evia and the mountainous area in the southern Peloponnese region.
On Sunday, 17 repatriation flights took 2,115 tourists back to their home countries. Another 21 repatriation flights took off on Monday, efforts continuing throughout the week to get holidaymakers out of Greece.
Meanwhile, airlines and travel agencies have cancelled all or most of the flights to Greece, while several countries have issues travel warnings. Jet2 has scrapped all flights until 30 July, Tui only until 28 July, but until the 30th for destinations in the areas most affected by the fires, while EasyJet has cancelled flights until 29 July, operating several repatriation flights in the meantime.