Israel is among countries that have sent rescue teams to help put out the massive fires raging across Greece, with planes dropping significant amounts of water from the air in close coordination with Greek authorities.
“The Israeli team carried out the mission successfully and the operational and professional cooperation allowed us to meet tight deadlines. Our main goal was to put out the fires, prevent further outbreaks, and despite harsh weather conditions, we achieved our goal,” said Superintendent Chaim Bar-Gil of the Israel Police Air Division, who served as mission commander.
The fires ravaging Greece have also affected dozens of Britons whose holidays have been disrupted by a fire that swept through the island of Rhodes, with some holidaymakers forced to evacuate their resorts.
British tourists have described ‘terrifying’ scenes of unrest as the five-day blaze continues to rage, with power cuts causing ‘chaos’ and a lack of information from travel agencies .
In previous days, the forest fire was confined to the mountainous center of the island, but helped by winds, very high temperatures and drought, it spread towards the coast in the center-east of the island on Saturday. .
Local media reported that the fires had reached three hotels, which had already been evacuated, while three coastguard ships, plus one from the army, evacuated people from two beaches.
Fire department spokesman Yannis Artopios said on Saturday more wildfires could break out as temperatures are expected to hit 45C on Sunday.
Thomas Cook said 40 of its customers were in hotels in Lardos and Kiotari – the areas most affected by the blaze.
Corinne Watson, 42, who is on vacation with her husband and two sons, told the PA news agency she had only received one automated text message from Tui, telling her they were “ sorry for any disturbance”.
The mother-of-two said: “Our hotel accepted some evacuees and accommodated a few while other accommodations were found.
“The power cuts affecting the kitchens have caused chaos, but the hotel staff are working extremely hard to manage the situation – they must be very worried about their island.
“The hotel staff are working flat out in desperate concern.”
However, she said Tui provided “poor service” with no information about whether her area was safe or what to do in the event of an evacuation.
Ms Watson, a local government worker from Cumbria, added: “Today the skies were rarely blue and the planes above us frequently gathered from the sea.
“Getting information is very difficult. Currently we are lucky, in a lovely hotel and hope it stays that way.
“For others, tourists and locals, it is horrible and terrifying. Hopefully they will master them quickly with limited damage.
Speaking to the BBC, Simon Wheatley said: “Police told us we had to evacuate the building because the air was just unbreathable – it had turned bright orange and black above our heads. »
Katie Piercefield-Holmes told the BBC it was “truly terrifying”. A Thomas Cook spokesperson said: “We are closely monitoring the wildfires in Rhodes and are in contact with our customers who are on holiday there.
“Our teams are in regular contact with our holidaymakers currently on the island as well as those about to depart to discuss their options. »
The heat wave will experience a brief respite on Monday, but it will resume on Tuesday and could last at least until Friday, meteorologists said.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly tweeted: “The safety of British nationals is our top priority. I encourage people of Rhodes, as well as those with family and friends there, to continue to check FCDO’s travel advice for updates.
The Foreign Office has updated its advice for foreign travelers on heatwaves and wildfires in Europe. It read: “If you are a British national affected by forest fires in Rhodes, please follow the instructions of the emergency services. Call the Greek emergency services on 112 if you are in immediate danger.
“The Greek government has created a crisis management unit to facilitate the evacuation of foreign citizens from Rhodes. They can be contacted on +30 210 368 1730. For 24/7 UK consular assistance call +4420 7008 5000.
“If you plan to visit Rhodes, please check with your tour operator or hotel before traveling that the area you plan to visit is not affected by the current wildfires.”
Firefighting forces from eight EU countries are either operational or expected to arrive soon, Artopios said.
Israel, Jordan and Turkey also sent reinforcements, mainly air equipment. A Tui spokeswoman said they “continue to do all they can in a rapidly evolving situation” and have representatives at evacuation points.
She said: “We are closely following the situation in Rhodes where forest fires led to the evacuation of several hotels in the south of the island.
“Our resort teams are doing everything they can to support customers and ask them to follow the advice of the local authorities with whom we work closely.
“Our main priority is always the safety of our customers and we will continue to do everything we can to help those affected.”