Athens/Rome/Istanbul, 25 Jul (EFE).- As Southern Europe grapples with a lingering heatwave, forest fires on the Greek Island of Rhodes were raging out of control Tuesday with major blazes also reported in tourist hotspots in Italy and Turkiyë.
Wildfires in Rhodes, which forced the largest evacuation operation in Greece’s history with over 19,000 people —including 7,000 tourists —, continued out of control for an eighth consecutive day, the fire department reported.
Some 270 firefighters were battling a blaze that has already scorched over 4,000 hectares of forest and several homes amid adverse weather conditions with high temperatures and strong winds.
Two seaplanes and two helicopter tankers have been deployed and some 20 additional firefighters with 20 vehicles were expected to arrive on the island Tuesday, according to SKAI television reports.
The fire has ripped through the center and southern tip of the island, near the east coast.
Hundreds of volunteers also helped fight the flames throughout the night to prevent them from reaching the town of Malonas and the coastal village of Kalathos.
Hundreds of firefighters were also struggling to control blazes on the islands of Corfu and Evia.
For a third consecutive day, a blaze ripped through northwestern Corfu and threatened the village of Loutses, on Mount Pantokrator (north).
On the island of Euboea, northeast of Athens, over 100 firefighters continued to fight another fire that was out of control for the third consecutive day around the coastal village of Caristo.
According to local authorities, one person — a livestock farmer — has been missing since Sunday. The blaze has forced the evacuation of nine villages and reached the towns of Platanistos and Potami, burning several houses.
Dozens of other smaller fires scattered across Greece have kept firefighters busy as the country deals with unusually high temperatures, drought and strong gusts of wind.
Temperatures reached a record high of 46.4 degrees on Sunday in the Peloponnese town of Gytheio.
According to the National Meteorological Service, the heat wave will continue until Thursday, when a significant drop in temperatures (between 5 and 7 degrees) is expected.
Fires spread across the island of Sicily, in southern Italy, especially the Palermo area where the flames forced the temporary closure of the airport.
In Palermo province, firefighters were working to contain a blaze in the towns of Alimenusa, Gangi, Blufi, Misilmeri, Cefalu Bolognetta, Santa Flavia, Villabate, Partinico, San Cipirrello and Corleone.
The fires have also affected the Palermo-Mazara del Vallo highway and some exits have been closed.
The blaze also poses a threat to the Cervello hospital in Palermo.