Popular European tourist island unrecognisable as fires rage

More than 450 people, including an Australian tourist, were evacuated from a Greek holiday resort on Saturday as wildfires engulfed the island of Lesbos.

Eight kilometres of ordinarily busy beaches along the southern village of Vatera were eerily deserted. A beach bar and walkway were scorched, rows of beach umbrellas and chairs were burned and nearby homes damaged.

Images shared to social media show blackened palm trees inside the complex and hills surrounding the region denuded by the blaze. A firefighter was also injured.

A burning walkway at a beach in Vatera, Greece. There are beach umbrellas in the background.
Beaches were deserted after a Lesbos resort was evacuated. Source: Reuters
A resort in Vatera in Greece with smoke high in the background.
The air became thick with black smoke as fires raged around Vatera in Greece. Source: Getty

Resort owner Agamemnon Asvestis told Reuters it had been a busy summer and his venue had been full when the fires hit.

"We turned around us and suddenly realised we were trapped,” he said.

“We all ran to the sea, climbed onto the inflatable toys, and sat and watched from afar until a fire engine came and we came out and helped to save whatever we could."

Vasili, an Australian tourist on the island told the agency it was "a shame to see the destruction" and Sunday had been a "difficult day" for many on the island.

As the fire continued to rage for a second day, the villages of Vrisa and Stavros were also evacuated on Sunday as a precaution.

Fifty firefighters, 17 fire engines and nine planes were working to fight the disaster, authorities said. A helicopter was also seen scooping water from the Aegean Sea to help dampen the flames.

Urgent call for help as fire rages on mainland Greece

Mainland Greece has also been impacted by fire amid a heatwave, which saw temperatures reach 40 degrees on Sunday.

A burning street in Krestena.
A call for help was made as fires raged in the village of Krestena. Source: Reuters

As residential areas were threatened at Krestena, in the western Peloponnese, an urgent call for assistance was made by Anastasios Karnaros, a town councillor, on local television.

"The flames have encircled Krestena, there are reports of damaged homes, we need help," he told Open TV.

Heatwave expected to last a week

Weatherzone meteorologist Felix Levesque told Yahoo News Australia there is little respite in sight with the current event expected to last another week.

A weather map showing Europe and Greece suffering from extreme temperatures.
Hot weather experienced in Greece is expected to last another week. Source: Windy.com

“Temperatures for much of Greece are in the low to mid 30s, and that’s lasting until next week,” he said.

“There is possible cooling and showers due on Tuesday or Wednesday next week.”

The weather system is slowly moving southeast across the Mediterranean, with much of Europe expected to remain warm for the coming days.

Climate change is making heatwaves across Europe and the United States more frequent and intense.

Last week, the UK recorded its hottest temperature on record, fuelling fires across the outskirts of London.

While over in Spain and Portugal, more than 1000 people died due to heatwave-related causes.

In 2021, Greece suffered its worst fires in 30 years, in an event that destroyed more than 121,000 hectares of bushland.

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