ATHENS, Greece (AP) — About 19,000 people were evacuated from the Greek island of Rhodes as wildfires burned for a third day on three fronts, Greek officials said Sunday.
“This is the largest release from wildfires in the country,” the Ministry of Climate Change and Civil Protection said.
Local police said 16,000 people from 12 villages and several hotels were evacuated by land and 3,000 by sea. Six people were briefly hospitalized for respiratory problems and later released.
On Sunday morning, 266 firefighters and 49 ground engines were dispatched by five helicopters and 10 planes – seven Greek, two Turkish and one Croatian – to help put out the blaze, officials said. An additional 15 engines are expected during the day.
In the Rhodes Mountains at the front of the wildfire, firefighters are trying to keep the blaze from spreading to nearby dense forests.
The main focus of Saturday’s evacuations southwest of Kiotari resort, a trench was being dug to prevent the fire from crossing the river and threatening the other coastal village of Genadi.
The weather will remain warm in the Mediterranean country on Sunday. Before noon, the temperature reached 38C (100F). Winds were low but variable in Rhodes as in other Greek islands.
Some of the evacuees, including tourists, are being accommodated in other hotels, gyms and a convention center. A shipping company offered one of its ships for accommodation.
Managers of the displaced hotels are looking to reunite former customers with their tour operators, he said.
Other visitors to the island headed to the airport to fly home. The Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced that it is working in coordination with embassies to help those who may leave their travel documents behind during migration.
Authorities have designated an unprecedentedly large part of the plain, the entire eastern part of central and southern Greece, plus the islands of Evia and Rhodes, as well as large areas of the southwest, category 5, the highest risk of fire. An additional category of Greek category 4 has been assigned, very high risk.
Temperatures are expected to reach 43C (110F) in the capital, Athens, on Sunday and 45C (113F) in central Greece.
Sinar Kiper contributed to this report from Istanbul.