Firefighters battled a blaze burning in three active fronts on the island of Rhodes on Sunday, while Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was being briefed on developments constantly.
At Kiotari and southwest to Gennadi, on the southeast coast of the island, firefighters operated on the ground while earthworks are being constructed to prevent the fire from crossing a creek. Aerial reinforcements include 1 Mi-8, 2 Chinooks and a BK-117 for coordination. In addition, at Laerma there is a S-64 helicopter assisting. At the fire front from Apollonas to Profitis Ilias there are constant re-kindlings of the fire and efforts are focusing on preventing the fire from spreading further north and into the dense forest.
At the front east of the artificial Gadoura Lake, efforts are focused on preventing the spread of the fire toward Kalathos.
Shelters, travel liaisons
On Saturday, six people with some breathing problems were transferred by the emergency ambulance system (EKAV) to hospitals, which discharged them right away. Safe spaces to temporarily house evacuees have been set up in hotels, conference centers, sports facilities, schools, and public spaces. In addition, people sheltering at these facilities have been supplied with food, water, and ongoing medical supervision.
According to information, hotel officials responsible for guest relations will visit these facilities – whether at hotels or elsewhere – and act as liaisons to help evacuees come in contact with tour operators and to acquire a better sense of where each person is sheltering. At schools, principals will act as such liaisons.
At the same time, a collaboration with the Greek Foreign Affairs Ministry and embassies in Greece will provide a hotspot at the Rhodes International Airport, so that tourists who lost or did not take their travel documents before evacuations may return to their respective countries without problems.
Tour operators have additionally ordered charter flights to land at Rhodes without passengers in order to pick up travellers who wish to leave the island.
Regarding the fire in Laerma, authorities denied the area is “fully destroyed by fire”, as the Fire Brigade confirmed after inspection that the main part of the village is intact, and the only burned facilities are one or two abandoned storage areas outside the village.
Operating at the Rhodes fire as of this writing are 16 rough terrain teams, 266 firefighters, and 49 water trucks, while an additional 10 fire trucks with 60 firefighters are arriving shortly, to be augmented by another 5 trucks in the afternoon. Operating from the air are 5 water-dousing helicopters and 10 aircraft (the latter include 7 Greek, 1 Croatian, and 2 Turkish airplanes).
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is currently at the National Operations and Crisis Management Coordinating Center of Civil Protection in Athens, being constantly updated about the fire on Rhodes, and about efforts to house visitors to the island who have been evacuated.
At an earlier meeting, the government leadership held a conference with the South Aegean Region and representatives of agencies.
Largest evacuation ever
Evacuations on the island began on Saturday night, in the largest such effort Greece has ever seen. Initial police reports spoke of nearly 19,000 people evacuated preventatively, of whom 16,000 were transported by land and 3,000 by sea.
With strong winds and the flames at points reaching 5 meters, the Dodecanese Islands Police Directorate said the following villages and towns were evacuated for preventative reasons: Kiotari, Gennadi, Pylonas, Laerma, Lardos, Lindos, Kalathos Malona, Asklipio, Pevkos, Massair, Haraki, and visitors at hotels in these areas.
Special needs individuals were evacuated by police vans, but most were transported on tourist buses, Port Authority vessels, and private boats requisitioned by the Port Authority.
Only two people have been kept at hospitals after admission, one with a broken bone during a hotel evacuation and a 31-year-old pregnant woman who is well but under supervision. [AMNA]