Rescue teams carried out “the largest evacuation operation ever conducted in Greece” on the tourist island of Rhodes, where a violent fire continued to wreak havoc for the sixth consecutive day, stated a police spokesperson.
“This is the largest evacuation ever conducted in Greece… Everything went well. Everyone, especially tourists, followed our orders,” emphasized Konstantia Dimoglidou.
Meanwhile, TUI, the world’s leading tourism company, announced the suspension of its flights to the island.
“No tourists will be transported by plane to Rhodes, Greece, until Tuesday,” declared one of TUI’s spokespersons, Linda Jonczyk.
However, the planes will travel empty to the island to be able to repatriate TUI tourists, she added.
“TUI currently has 40,000 tourists on the island of Rhodes, of whom 7,800 were affected by the fires and had to be evacuated,” Jonczyk specified.
On Saturday, about 30,000 people had to leave their homes and hotels due to the advancing fire in the east of this Dodecanese island.
The evacuated tourists spent the night in gyms, schools, or conference centers.
Approximately 19,000 people were evacuated as a preventive measure, including 16,000 by land and 3,000 by sea, according to the police.
A total of 12 localities, including Lindos, one of the main tourist destinations on the island, were cleared.
Cédric Guisset, a Belgian tourist interviewed by his country’s radio and television, RTBF, said he left his hotel on foot after receiving warning messages on his cellphone.
“We simply took our identification documents, water, and something to cover our faces and heads,” he added.
The fight against the fire will continue for several more days, according to the authorities.
The wind will intensify on Sunday between noon and 5 pm, warned a spokesperson for the firefighters, Vassilis Vathrakoyiannis.