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Chaotic airport scenes as thousands flee Greek tourist islands

Climate change is continuing to create unsafe conditions for both tourists and locals in Greece.

Sun beds have been abandoned and lively hotels and bars lie quiet after thousands of tourists were forced to flee Greek islands due to escalating bushfires.

Fanned by severe winds and sweltering temperatures, fires that were initially only affecting the central mountains in Rhodes have threatened coastal resorts. More than 19,000 people have been displaced and some airlines in Germany and the UK have suspended flights to the island.

Overnight authorities also ordered evacuations in 18 areas on the island of Corfu — multiple videos shared on Twitter show the island’s mountains on fire.

The airport in Rhodes. Dozens of people line up under the arrival and departure sign.
Tourists have fled the island of Rhodes after bushfires threatened villages and coastal resorts. Source: Reuters

Firefighters struggled to bring the blazes under control as Greece faces what could be its longest heatwave on record. In Rhodes, images shared online show dozens of exhausted travellers sleeping on the airport floor, while others queue outside the door as they await to depart.

Climate change making Greek bushfires worse

Travellers say they escaped a terrifying situation, video shows the roads are lined with dead animals, blackened trees, and burnt-out cars. "I've never been so scared in my entire life," one holidaymaker told Reuters.

Tourists sleeping on the ground inside Rhodes airport.
Tired tourists have been photographed inside the airport at Rhodes. Source: Reuters
A woman checking her phone inside a crowded airport in Rhodes.
More than 19,000 people have been displaced on Rhodes. Source: Reuters

While fires in Greece regularly occur, because of climate change they have become more intense and severe. Global temperatures have already increased by 1.1 degrees since preindustrial levels according to experts, and the situation will only worsen unless governments commit to reducing global emissions by reducing the use of fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal.

In parts of Greece, temperatures over the past week have regularly soared over 40 degrees. Overnight it was reported 82 fires were burning across the country. The Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis took to social media to thank Jordan, Israel, Bulgaria, Malta, Egypt and Turkey for sending firefighting resources.

In 2021, bushfires killed three people and burned 125,000 hectares, the worst since 2007 when 270,000 hectares were scorched — the country's worst year on record.

with Reuters

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