Arsonists blamed for Corfu wildfires as Greece grapples with blazes while terrified Brit tourists flee

25 July 2023, 13:27 | Updated: 25 July 2023, 13:35

Corfu's wildfires were set by opportunistic arsonists attempting to heap misery upon others, the mayor of the Greek holiday island has claimed.
Corfu's wildfires were set by opportunistic arsonists attempting to heap misery upon others, the mayor of the Greek holiday island has claimed. Picture: Alamy

By Chay Quinn

Arsonists heaping misery on inhabitants are to blame for Corfu's wildfires - as firefighters grapple with blazes across Greece.

Corfu and Rhodes are among the Greek areas which are attempting to deal with forest fires that have broken out as Europe bakes in temperatures up to 48C in the Cerberus heatwave.

Despite claims that the Corfu fires were caused by climate change, Corfu mayor Yorgos Mahimaris claimed that an arsonist seemingly started the fires which sparked panic on the island.

Both Corfu and Rhodes have seen evacuation orders issued by authorities - leading to Dunkirk-style scenes of mass exoduses away from the inferno brewing on the islands.

Read More: 'Deplorable': Minister slams travel companies as raging wildfires leave up to 10,000 Brits stranded in Corfu and Rhodes

Mr Mahimaris made the assertion after visiting the area where fires broke out on Mount Pantokratoras on Sunday.

A helicopter scoops water from Agios Spiridon Beach on Corfu before dropping it onto the nearby wildfires
A helicopter scoops water from Agios Spiridon Beach on Corfu before dropping it onto the nearby wildfires. Picture: Alamy
Local men chop down trees as wildfires approach the village of Vati in the southern part of the Greek island of Rhodes
Local men chop down trees as wildfires approach the village of Vati in the southern part of the Greek island of Rhodes. Picture: Getty

His deputy mayor Theofanis Skembris added that four fires were “started simultaneously" in a tacit endorsement of Mr Mahirmaris's view.

The deputy told the BBC: "We have to wait for the investigation, but their first unofficial assumption is that it was arson - fires can't start simultaneously in four different places."

Rescue flights are ongoing to rescue stranded Brits who are experiencing a hellish summer holiday.

Thousands of British tourists are still thought to be waiting for evacuation from the Greek island of Rhodes, which has been ravaged by wildfires in recent days.

Holiday operators and airlines have been running repatriation flights and regular scheduled trips to take people from the island.

Read More: 'It's like a nightmare': Wildfires break out in Sicily as flights cancelled and airport shuts after temperatures hit 47C

TUI and Jet2 have cancelled flights to Rhodes, but a number of airlines are still running flights. Corfu, another Greek island, has also seen major wildfires, with authorities issuing another evacuation order on Tuesday morning.

Crete, a third island, has been put on high alert for fires.

Meanwhile fires have also broken out in several more Mediterranean countries, including Algeria and Tunisia in north Africa. Spain has also suffered wildfires.

Travelers gesture as they arrive after returning from the Greek island of Rhodes where evacuations are underway due to wildfires
Travelers gesture as they arrive after returning from the Greek island of Rhodes where evacuations are underway due to wildfires. Picture: Getty
A vast fire spreading on hills in the area of Monte Grifone and the town of Ciaculli around Palermo, Sicily,
A vast fire spreading on hills in the area of Monte Grifone and the town of Ciaculli around Palermo, Sicily,. Picture: Getty

Wildfires broke out in Sicily overnight on Tuesday morning, reaching the airport of the island's capital city, with firefighters rushing to quell the blaze.

Palermo Airport was closed because of the fire, which emergency services eventually managed to get under control.

The airport partially reopened for business at 11am local time (10am UK time), with some flights able to land. Several flights have been cancelled.

One elderly woman suffering a medical emergency died because an ambulance was unable to reach her home because of the fire, Reuters reported.

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