More than 30,000 people had to flee the flames on the very touristic island of Rhodes, “the largest evacuation operation ever carried out in Greece”, crushed under a furnace favoring fires.
Since the beginning of summer, the heat has overwhelmed tens of millions of people around the world. July could turn out to be the hottest month on record on Earth, according to experts who point to the impact of global warming.
In Greece, where firefighters have recorded 46 new fires in 24 hours, the fire rages Sunday for the sixth day in the east of Rhodes, an island of 100,000 inhabitants very popular with vacationers, in the Dodecanese archipelago.
Relief carried out Saturday “the largest evacuation operation ever carried out” in the country, which continued overnight from Saturday to Sunday.
Some 30,000 people left their accommodation, including hotels, including 19,000 as a preventive measure. 3,000 were evacuated by sea.
In total, twelve localities were abandoned, including Lindos, famous for its Acropolis perched on a hill. During the night, the flames reached the village of Laerma and spread to the coastal villages of Kiotari and Gennadi Lardos.
Paul F., a 23-year-old German, told the daily Bild that he was “saved from the fire”, with his friend Lara, “at the last moment” on Saturday.
After dozing off at the beach, they discover “the beach and the swimming pool [de l’hôtel] as deserted. They rush to the hotel, pack their things, then wait for help at the reception, where wet towels to protect themselves from the smoke have been distributed.
“Embers fluttered around our heads and no help was in sight. I had the feeling of being on my own, it was so hot and the smoke was so dense already that we couldn’t have lasted more than ten minutes more, ”he explains. “Some, panicked, have […] tried to find boats to leave”. But the buses eventually arrive.
The Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs has opened a crisis unit in Athens to facilitate the repatriation of foreigners.
The French tourism giant TUI and the British company JeT2 suspended their tourist flights to Rhodes on Sunday but will send their aircraft there empty to be able to evacuate the tourists present on the island. Dutch tour operator Corendon announced a similar disruption, according to local media.
Several days are still needed to contain the fire, according to the authorities, especially since the wind, which is fanning it, “should strengthen between midday and 5 p.m. (10 a.m., Montreal time),” warned the firefighters.
Temperatures exceeding 44°C are expected this Sunday in Greece.
“We are probably going to experience a heat wave of 16 to 17 days, which has never happened before in our country,” said Kostas Lagouvardos, research director at the national meteorological observatory, on Saturday.
On the surface of the sea, the mercury was 2 to 3 ° C above normal, the meteorological services announced on Saturday.
Progress in the United States
The heat wave continues to progress in the United States, where the weather services (NWS) have forecast temperatures of 41 degrees or more this weekend, affecting around 80 million people.
The thermometer could rise to more than 46 ° C in Phoenix, Arizona, which is currently experiencing its longest heat wave on record: Friday, more than 43 ° C for the 22e day in a row.
500 kilometers away, in California, Death Valley and its highest temperatures on the planet attract tourists, the latter wanting to take their picture alongside a screen displaying a mercury always at its highest.
Some are waiting for the absolute record on Earth – 56.6°C recorded at this place in 1913 -, disputed by some experts, to be beaten.
A 71-year-old man died there earlier this week and Death Valley National Park rangers suspect “heat played a part” in his death, which would make it the second of the year under the circumstances.
In Canada, the scene of record flooding due to torrential rains, four people, including two children, have been reported missing in Nova Scotia, police say.
The hottest July on Earth is on track to be recorded, not only since there have been measurements, but also for “hundreds, if not thousands of years”, according to NASA chief climatologist Gavin Schmidt.
This is not only due to El Niño, the cyclic weather phenomenon that originates in the Pacific Ocean and causes global temperatures to rise, he said.
For this specialist, extreme temperatures will persist because “we continue to emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere”.
Compared to the pre-industrial era, the world is experiencing a warming close to 1.2°C due to human activity, mainly the use of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas).