Largest Evacuation In Country’s History Underway Amid Wildfires Threat

 A massive wildfire in Greece has prompted thousands of tourists to flee in what officials say is the largest evacuation the country has ever seen.

A wildfire raging through the central and southern parts of the Greek island of Rhodes has forced the evacuation of nearly 19,000 since Saturday, CNN reported. The fire, which has reportedly been burning since Tuesday, is the largest of a number of similar blazes currently raging through Greece, the outlet stated. 

Of the 19,000 evacuated from the island, 16,000 residents and tourists reportedly escaped the country via land, while another 3,000 made their escape by sea. Those who fled the country on land did so primarily by foot, with many tourists telling Reuters they walked for miles in “scorching heat” to safety.

“The smoke was coming. So we all set off on foot. I walked 12 miles (19 km) in this heat yesterday. It took me four hours,” British tourist Chris Freestone told the outlet.

Another such tourist, Amy Leyden, was urged to leave her hotel immediately or else her family “would not make it,” CNN reported.

“It was just terrifying. We’ve got our 11-year-old daughter with us and we were walking down the road at 2 o’clock in the morning and the fire was catching up with us,” Leyden stated, according to CNN.

Some tourists were left with no place to go, carrying nothing much more than their identification cards. “We told the hotel about the messages we had received on our phones to evacuate the area, but they didn’t even know about it,” Cedric Guisset stated, according to CNN. “We really just took our identity cards, water and something to cover our faces and heads.”

The foreign ministry in Greece is planning to set up a dedicated help desk for tourists to help get them home to their respective countries. In addition, tour operators have been ordered to land empty flights in Rhodes with the express purpose of picking up “travelers who wish to leave the island,” CNN reported.

A total of eight people have been sent to the hospital with respiratory problems, according to the outlet.

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