Holidaymakers swim to escape huge fires advancing in Greek village
THOUSANDS of British holidaymakers have been warned they are in “extreme danger” today as forest fires rage across the Greek islands.
Authorities sent SMS alerts to anxious travelers whose phones were rung by a loud horn ringing as a written warning was issued.
Patches of black smoke obscured the sun and ash rained down on hot spots, including the Mama Mia film location, Skopelos and neighboring islands.
Hundreds of fearful families were then evacuated from the island of Evia near the capital Athens under the threat of a terrifying wall of flames.
Anxious holidaymakers were photographed taking to the sea near the village of Limni sur Evios, 160 km north of Athens, as the flames marched towards the beach today.
Emergency services were advising people at risk to retreat into the water if they were trapped by the fires.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis warned in an emergency televised address that the entire country had become a burnt “powder keg”.
Greece and neighboring Turkey are suffering the most dangerous heat wave in 30 years with temperatures reaching 40-45 degrees Celsius.
Fire Chief Major Milios Nicholas, on Alonissos Island, near Skopelos, told The Sun: “The situation here is very bad – the pines are slightly dry.
“If a fire breaks out on one of the islands, there will be no help from the mainland as all of the fire department’s resources are focused on Athens.”
The global “Emergency Alert” text was sent as many vacationers dined at sunset on Thursday.
The message read, in broken English: “Extreme danger of fires in the coming days. Avoid any action that might cause a fire. If you see a fire, call the fire department immediately.
Manchester’s Tucker family had been in Skopelos for less than 24 hours when they were alarmed by the message.
Papa James, a computer scientist on vacation with his wife Clare and three-year-old son Jordan, said: “Nothing was said to Skiathos but when we got on the ferry they kept announcing that everyone had to stay inside.
“We were having a drink in town when we both suddenly got texts. I couldn’t believe it when I read it, then this morning the smoke was really bad – it’s worrying. “
Another British traveler to Alonissos with her daughter in Alonissos said: “The text said travel to forest areas was prohibited and to avoid unnecessary travel – everyone looked really shocked.
“I thought it was cloudy, then I realized it was black smoke that completely erased the sun.
“Now there is a smell of smoke and this morning our rental car was covered in ash and the sky is completely black. It is a frightening situation.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos said: “Our country is in an extremely critical situation.
“We are facing unprecedented conditions as several days of heatwave have turned the whole country into a powder keg. “
Coastguard ships and tourist boats evacuated 631 people from three beaches in Evia, near Athens, where a vast pine forest has been on fire since Tuesday.
The suburbs of Athens were also evacuated as the flames closed in from the north.
At least nine people were taken to hospital, including two volunteer firefighters treated for burns in intensive care units in Athens.
Eight people were killed as fires swept through coastal areas in southwestern Turkey, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people.