world News : 'Everyone is anxious': Holidaymaker tells of 'apocalyptic' scenes on Greek island as PM warns of more wildfires

world News : 'Everyone is anxious': Holidaymaker tells of 'apocalyptic' scenes on Greek island as PM warns of more wildfires
world News : 'Everyone is anxious': Holidaymaker tells of 'apocalyptic' scenes on Greek island as PM warns of more wildfires

Monday 1 July 2024 10:46 PM

newsonline - A British holidaymaker has described "apocalyptic" scenes on a Greek island as she and her family wait to be evacuated from their hotel due to nearby wildfires, while the Greek prime minister warned tourists further blazes this summer could "be particularly dangerous".

Parts of Greece have seen tinderbox-like conditions after prolonged drought and dry weather, which have combined with unusually strong winds to create raging infernos in places.

In the eastern Aegean, the islands of Chios and Kos experienced dangerous wildfires on Monday.

Image: A volunteer stands on a roof as flames rise from a wildfire burning in Stamata, around 25km from Athens. Pic: Reuters
A helicopter flies over a firefighter and volunteers trying to extinguish a wildfire burning in Keratea. Pic: Reuters
Image: A helicopter flies over a firefighter and volunteers trying to extinguish a wildfire burning in Keratea, around 40km southeast of Athens. Pic: Reuters

Clare Smith, 38, who is on holiday in Kos with her husband and nine-year-old daughter, told Sky News the situation had "got significantly worse" over the day, with "thick plumes of black smoke" billowing into the sky.

The family from Edinburgh were staying at a hotel outside the resort town of Kardamena when they received alerts on their phones telling people in the area to relocate due to the wildfire.

"Everyone is anxious," Ms Smith said. Her family and other guests waited for most of the evening before they were told their hotel was being evacuated and coaches were on the way to pick them up.

She said they had been watching several planes and helicopters as they "constantly" worked throughout the day to combat the wildfire, which she estimated to be around five to six miles away.

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"It's really windy here, it will be like a tinderbox," she said. "The sky is covered in smoke. You feel like you're in the apocalypse, or some sort of war film."

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More than 100 firefighters assisted by 11 aircraft and five helicopters were trying to put out blazes on the islands of Kos and Chios.

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Two further fires affected a 24-acre area not far from the capital, Athens.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video playerBrits evacuated in Greece wildfires 1:57

Brits evacuated in Greece wildfires

During a cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said: "It is a summer which is expected to be particularly dangerous [for wildfires]... the most difficult times are still ahead of us."

He added: "We have had an exceptionally difficult June regarding weather conditions, with high levels of drought and unusually strong winds for this season."

Flames rise next to a football stadium as a wildfire burns in Stamata. Pic:Reuters
Image: Flames rise next to a football stadium as a wildfire burns in Stamata. Pic:Reuters
A volunteer tries to extinguish a wildfire burning in Stamata. Pic: Reuters
Image: A volunteer tries to extinguish a wildfire burning in Stamata. Pic: Reuters

Mr Mitsotakis said the use of drones as an early warning system for wildfires had been particularly useful and increased coordination between authorities and volunteer firefighters had limited the extent of the damage so far as well.

Public help would be vital as the country enters "the tough core of the anti-fire period" through the heart of summer, he added.

A helicopter drops water over a wildfire at Keratea. Pic: AP
Image: A helicopter drops water over a wildfire at Keratea. Pic: AP
A firefighter and volunteers try to extinguish a wildfire burning in Stamata. Pic: Reutes
Image: A firefighter and volunteers try to extinguish a wildfire burning in Stamata. Pic: Reuters

Greece has scaled up its preparation this year, hiring more staff and increasing training, after last year's extensive fires across the country killed more than 20 people and forced 19,000 to flee.

"Our arsenal might be stronger, but nothing - and that is seen in practice - beats being prepared, and for the public to also be involved in this collective defence against natural hazards," Mr Mitsotakis added.

Hot, dry weather combined with strong winds have already proved to be fertile conditions for forest fires in both Greece and Turkey.

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On the back of a mild, dry winter, this summer is expected to be particularly prone to the fires.

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