‘The wind fans the flames like a blacksmith’s fire – there’s nothing that can stop it’: Wildfires have devastated parts of scorched Rhodes, writes NICK FAGGE – but volunteer crews are braving 40C heat to end the inferno
- Tens of thousands of people have fled blazes on the Greek island of Rhodes
- Frightened tourists are scrambling to get home on evacuation flights
- Greece wildfires LIVE: Corfu and Rhodes burn as tourists evacuated
The temperature gauge reads 40 degrees Celsius and it’s hot as hell on a mountain side in Rhodes.
There isn’t a cloud in the sky, just the smell of old fires and a wisp of wood smoke.
I am surrounded by a forest of charred bushes and trees.
Suddenly a gust of hot wind inspires the tinder dry undergrowth to burst into flame.
As a Chinook helicopter, laden with a cargo of seawater to douse the blaze, flies over head, the vicious wildfires that have been ravaging this holiday island, come back to life.
The temperature gauge reads 40 degrees Celsius and it’s hot as hell on a mountain side in Rhodes. Pictured: A fire truck is seen today above an area left smouldering by the wildfires
Flames are seen on the island of Rhodes as wildfires continue to rage, forcing evacuations
A man uses a fire extinguisher to douse flames and to slow their spread on the island of Rhodes
All around the hillside the ash grey and charcoal black forest shimmers in the heat.
READ MORE: Hell march on inferno island: How terrified Brits were forced to walk up to eight MILES to escape Rhodes wildfires in ‘Dunkirk-style’ rescue
The popular seaside resorts of Lindos, Kiotari and Pelki – which British holidaymakers flock to in their thousands – are just a few miles down the road.
Greek firefighters who have been battling against the fire of nature since last week had hoped they had won.
This morning hoteliers cautiously encouraged their missing guests it was at last safe to take up their empty rooms.
But as the fierce wind breathed new life into the flames, the fight against the devastating wild fires that has devastated much of this popular holiday island and led to the evacuation of some 19,000 people, is far from over.
As I drive with my colleague photographer Tim Clarke, to the nearby hillside town of Laerma – the epicentre of the wildfires – we witness the devastation that nature can wreak on a scorched earth.
Telegraph wires dangle above char-blacked poles that have been burnt like match sticks.
The carcasses of wild deer lie burnt to a crisp by the side of the hot tarmac road.
As we watch the flames come back to life, local volunteers Nikos and Christos Christoforos screech to halt in their blue BMW.
A huge flame is seen rising above the trees on the Greek island of Rhodes on Monday
An exhausted soot-covered firefighter with a facemask around his chin is seen in Rhodes
A Chinook helicopter laden with a cargo of seawater to douse the blaze, flies over head as its operators work to put out the huge fires that have wreaked havoc across the island of Rhodes
Leaving his car door open father Nikos grabs a fire extinguisher and tries to put the new flames out.
His son Christos follows suit, trying to cut down the few remaining shrubs that have not gone up in smoke.
But as soon as they put out one flame, a gust of hot wind reignites another.
‘This is where our family come from,’ Christos explains. ‘We live in Rhodes Town now but I have come back with my dad to save whatever we can.’
A few kilometres up the road, residents of the village of Laerma have started to return home.
The village had been evacuated on Saturday as the fires threatened to destroy everything in site.
Their neighbours in Lardos at the bottom of the hill had pulled together to support them, providing shelter, food, water and hope.
Here firefighters do not pay for their pastries at the bakery or coffee at the cafes.
A charred forest stretches into the distance as flames engulf trees on the Greek island
A charred forest littered with blackened corrugated iron panels are seen today in Rhodes
Flames engulf the branches of a tree in Rhodes today as the Greek wildfires continue to spread
But as the bright ochre flames once more begin to dance around the few remaining trees on the outskirts of Laerma, some fear they may have returned too soon.
‘We have had forest fires before,’ villager Naktaios Tharinakis explained.
‘There were big fires in 1987 and in 2007, but never as bad as this.
‘This year it is crazy.
‘We had to evacuate the village on Saturday because the fire was getting so close.
‘The fire did not reach the village this time, but I know people who live further into the mountains who have lost their homes.
‘We are used to hot weather here in the summer – 35, 36 degrees Celsius but not 42 or even 45 degrees like it has been. And the wind. It makes everything worse.
‘It fans the flames like a blacksmith’s fire. There is nothing that can stop it.’
A burned tyre lies in the middle of a charred woodland on the Greek island of Rhodes
MailOnline reporter Nick Fagge reports from a charred forest on the island of Rhodes
The hooting of a four-wheel drive fire engine halts our conversation.
Tired-looking, sooty-faced fire-fighters rush past.
A copse of blackened trees has burst back into flames within a stones’ throw of the village.
The wild-fire refuses to go out.
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