Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has expressed his gratitude to Türkiye for its assistance, as Greece, which is experiencing stifling temperatures due to an extended hot-weather spell, struggles to control the flames burning for nearly a week.
Two Turkish firefighting planes and one helicopter arrived in Athens on July 22 to assist in the ongoing efforts to extinguish forest fires in the country.
The planes and helicopter landed at Athens Eleftherios Venizelos Airport with a flight crew of nine people.
“Our gratitude goes out to Türkiye for sending two firefighting planes and one helicopter to assist us in our fight against forest fires. Thank you Türkiye!” Mitsotakis said in a social media post on July 21.
The Greek Foreign Ministry also thanked Ankara for sending help, saying, “Thank you Türkiye for your readiness to provide firefighting support and assist Greece in tackling severe wildfires.”
In the meantime, high winds forecast for July 23 are expected to hamper firefighters’ battle to contain a blaze burning out of control on the Greek island of Rhodes, sparking the biggest-ever fire evacuation in Greece.
The island of Rhodes is one of Greece’s most popular tourist destinations, particularly with British, German and French tourists — many of whom are now being rapidly moved out of the path of the flames.
“We had to evacuate an area of 30,000 people,” Konstantia Dimoglidou, Greek police spokeswoman, told AFP, adding that everything had gone “smoothly.”
Police said that authorities had transported some 16,000 people across land, with 3,000 evacuated by sea, and others fleeing by road or under their own transport after being told to leave the area.
Authorities have warned that the battle to contain the flames, raging in the middle of peak tourism season, will take several days.
Fire Department spokesman Vassilis Vathrakoyiannis warned that winds were set to become “more intense” through June 23, which could further fan the flames.
The fires reached the village of Laerma during the night of July 22, engulfing houses and a church, while many hotels were damaged by flames that had reached the coast.
On July 23, the blaze was burning in three active fronts, including on the southeast coast of the island where firefighters tried to prevent the fire from crossing a creek.
They were receiving help by air from helicopters, chinooks and air tractors.
Efforts are focusing on preventing the fire from spreading further north into the dense forest.