Fire on Rhodes forces evacuation

Fire on Rhodes forces evacuation

26 July 2008

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Greece — More than 2,000 tourists have been evacuated as forest fires sweep the Greek island of Rhodes.

Officials in Greece said tourists would return when the smoke cleared.

Over the last four days, the fire has destroyed thousands of acres of pine forest. A blaze north of Athens has been contained.

France, Italy and Cyprus have sent planes to help fight the fire and water-bombing aircraft are tackling the blaze.

“Three hotels were evacuated as a precaution, mainly because smoke from the fire had created an unpleasant atmosphere,” said Haralambos Kokkinos, the South Aegean regional governor.

“The evacuation was orderly and there were no problems. The tourists were taken to the nearby coast and will remain there until the smoke clears,” he added.

On Friday, dozens of villagers fled the fire in the Kryoneri area near Athens. It spread earlier in the week from Varibombi, 20km (12.5 miles) from the capital.

Last year, at least 65 people were killed during wildfires in southern Greece triggered by high temperatures, which destroyed 270,000 hectares (666,000 acres) of forest and farmland.

Green campaigners have accused the Greek conservative government of failing to take sufficient steps to avoid another disaster this year.

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