(LONDON) — Mass evacuations continued over the weekend in Rhodes, the popular tourist destination, as wildfires swept toward other villages, cities and tourist destinations throughout Greece.
About 19,000 residents and tourists left villages along the southeastern coast of Rhodes, near Kiotari, with some evacuating via boats, officials said.
Emergency services were fighting blazes around the country through Monday morning, including several near Athens, the capital.
Some of those blazes have been burning since early last week, when Greece requested the activation of the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism, a coordinated rescue and humanitarian assistance, to fight wildfires near Athens, officials said. Firefighters and equipment arrived last week from several European countries and Israel.
“Greece is handling this difficult situation with professionalism, putting emphasis on safely evacuating thousands of tourists, and can always count on European solidarity,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Sunday. “EU firefighters are already on the ground.”
Residents of some villages in Corfu were warned late Sunday that they should begin evacuating. The villages of Viglatouri and Nisaki were asked evacuate to Barbati, 112 Greece, the country’s emergency hotline, said in an alert.
Temperatures around the country were expected to dip on Monday, with the highest relief coming in eastern Greece, the Hellenic National Meteorological Service said in a warning.
But the heat was expected to return in full force on Tuesday, with highs between about 107 and 111 degrees, local weather officials said. Southern Europe has for days been in the grip of a searing heat wave.
The harsh weather conditions in Greece were “expected to intensify early this week,” Deputy Fire Chief Ioannis Artophios said in a video update posted Saturday. Greek officials were expecting much of the country to have very low humidity and high winds, along with high temperatures.
“This extreme situation we are experiencing will further favor the occurrence and spread of forest fires,” Artophios said, according to a translated transcript.
TUI, a popular airline for tourists flying from Britain to Greece, cancelled all outgoing flights to Rhodes for Monday and Tuesday. Another airline, Jet 2, cancelled all flights to Rhodes through July 30.
“We will fly those aircraft to Rhodes with no customers onboard,” Jet 2 said in a statement,” so that we can continue to bring customers back to the UK on their scheduled flights.”
About 10% of Rhodes’ tourist capacity had been affected by wildfires last week, Greece’s Civil Protection officials said on social media on Friday.
When Doyle and Kris Noe woke up Saturday at a resort in Rhodes, they found that the wildfires had been moving closer overnight, Kris Noe wrote on Facebook on Sunday.
“By lunch we were very concerned and they evacuated us to the beach road and told us to start walking at 2:15p,” she wrote. “We walked 5 miles to get where we could breathe again without masks.”
From there, the pair were moved to a nearby school, then sent on an hourlong bus ride to Rhodes airport.
“No hotels were available so the airport floor was a first for us,” Kris Noe wrote. “But we were safe, had food, water and bathrooms.”
ABC News’ Rashid Haddou, Ellie Kaufman and Matthew Holroyd contributed to this story.
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