May 25, 2024

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A plane fighting forest fires crashes in Greece with two people on board

A plane fighting forest fires crashes in Greece with two people on board

  • Fighter plane crashes on the island of Evia
  • More flights due to the return of tourists from Rhodes to their country
  • The public prosecutor begins an investigation into the cause of the fires
  • A government announcer says 10% of the island’s area is burned

RHODES, Greece (July 25) (Reuters) – A plane battling wildfires crashed in Greece on Tuesday and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis warned of tough days ahead with fires destroying homes and forcing thousands of tourists to evacuate the island of Rhodes.

State broadcaster ERT showed footage of the plane dropping water over the fire, then crashing into the side of a hill and engulfing it in flames.

The Greek Air Force said two pilots were on board the Canadair CL-215 amphibious plane when it crashed over the island of Evia, east of Athens.

The Air Force said two helicopters rushed to the scene to conduct a search and rescue operation. It gave no details about the fate of the pilots.

Hundreds of firefighters, with the help of forces from Turkey and Slovakia, are fighting the fires that have raged on the island of Rhodes since Wednesday and re-emerged amid hot and windy weather. More emergency flights are scheduled to take holidaymakers home.

Mitsotakis said on Tuesday that the coming days will be difficult, with conditions likely to improve after Thursday.

“We are all standing guard,” he said. “In the face of what the entire planet is facing, especially the Mediterranean Sea which is a climate change hotspot, there is no magic defense mechanism, had we implemented it.”

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An assessment by scientists published on Tuesday said that human-induced climate change played an “extremely overwhelming” role in the extreme heat waves that hit North America, southern Europe and China this month.

In Greece, the Public Prosecutor of Rhodes has launched an investigation into the causes of the fires and the authorities’ preparedness and response, state broadcaster ERT reported. It said about 10% of the island had been burned.

“unprecedented”

Lefteris Laudicus, whose family owns a small hotel in the seaside resort of Kiotari, one of the epicenters of the fire over the weekend, said his 200 guests – mostly from Germany, Britain and Poland – had been evacuated in rented cars.

He said his father, his cousin, and two others were trying to put out the fire using a nearby water tank.

“On Saturday when I saw the wind and that there were no planes, I said to everyone, ‘We’re going to burn today,'” he said.

“My dad saved the hotel. I called him, and he didn’t want to leave. He told me ‘If you leave there won’t be a hotel.'”

John Hatzis, who owns three unaffected hotels in northern Rhodes, said the island needs to receive tourists again.

“After the miraculous efforts to contain the fire, we need miraculous efforts to resume tourism now,” he said.

Rhodes, one of the largest islands of Greece, is among its top summer destinations, attracting around 1.5 million foreign tourists in the summer months.

About 20,000 people were forced to leave their homes and hotels in Rhodes over the weekend as inferno spread and reached the coastal resorts in the southeast of Algeciras, after lands were charred, animals were killed and buildings were damaged.

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After a fire broke out in the coastal town of Mati, east of Athens, in 2018, killing 104 people, Greece took a more proactive approach to evacuations. But critics say it has not improved its ability to put out fires that are common in summer, although they were more severe in this year’s heat wave.

The mayor of Rhodes said on Facebook that the island was facing an unprecedented ordeal.

Fires also broke out on the island of Corfu.

Greece has seen very high temperatures in recent weeks and is set to rise until Wednesday, topping 44 degrees Celsius (111.2 Fahrenheit) in some areas.

More than 2,000 holidaymakers flew home on Monday and tour operators canceled incoming flights. TUI (TUI1n.DE) has dropped its flights to Rhodes until Friday. It said it had 39,000 clients in Rhodes as of Sunday evening.

Tourism accounts for 18% of Greece’s economic output and one in five jobs. On Rhodes and many other Greek islands, the reliance on tourism is even greater.

Additional reporting by Angeliki Cotanto, Rene Maltizo, Carolina Tagaris and Alkis Konstantinidis; Writing by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Emma Romney

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