Horror, despair and anger in Rhodes after the fires

Horror, despair and anger in Rhodes after the fires

Vassilis sits alone at a table in an empty restaurant on the Greek island of Rhodes, watching with sorrow the firefighting planes diving into the Aegean Sea to fill their tanks with water.

With clenched fists and a sad, pale face, the owner of the restaurant wonders, "How can a fire start on the other side of the island and burn us here... How is that possible?"

The forest fire broke out last Tuesday in the center of the Dodecanese island. On Saturday, the flames reached the resort of Kiotari, on the east coast of Rhodes.

The island's tourist-free coast is now trying to heal its open wounds.

"We have had no electricity, water, or communications for a week," said Vassilis, who preferred not to reveal his full name, as his tearful eyes ran over the horizon.

The island's coastline is bleak: the streets are empty, the doors are closed, and the sound of fire engines and volunteer vehicles drowns out.

"There is nothing worse than what we live in today," said Christos Kitsos, an island resident who works in a luxury hotel.

He accused the authorities of failing, saying, "The authorities have failed. The mayor, the governor, and the government are all!"

He could not control his anger, adding, "There is a complete lack of organization. No information was given, and this is the peak season. There are more than 20,000 tourists on the island... We dealt with the crisis alone."

The 34-year-old continued, "They abandoned us... what a shame!"

About 30,000 people, including many tourists holidaying in hotels on the east coast, were evacuated over the weekend on Rhodes, in the largest evacuation ever carried out in Greece, according to firefighters.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis spoke of the 20,000 evacuees on Rhodes, including tourists.
Thick gray smoke sweeps over the island, and the bushes are charred on the deserted beach.

"The environmental catastrophe is massive, and it will take years to recover," Kitsos said, noting that "work is not a priority at all at the moment."

It is not possible to quantify the repercussions on the tourism sector at the present time on one of the busiest islands in Greece, which received 2.5 million visitors last year.

"The immediate future for all those working in the tourism sector and the local community is unknown," said Judge Dionysis Sabatakos, deputy manager of a hotel complex that was partially destroyed by the fire.

"We do not yet know how tourists and tour operators will behave in the coming weeks," he added.

Sabatakos pointed out that the number of people working in the tourism sector, directly or indirectly, is large in the region, pointing out that movement is paralyzed because everything is destroyed.

He expressed concern, saying, "We don't know when and how we will be able to resume any activity nor how the market will respond."

"Seeing the charred nature and all these dead animals frustrates me," he added tearfully.

On the road bordering the eastern coast of Rhodes, men are busy cutting the remains of charred electricity poles.

Dimitris, the owner of a shop, opened his shop "for a period only to allow people in the area to buy their cigarettes," and said, "I am not in the mood to allow me to do more."

"We've cried enough, and the question is, what do we do now?"