Heat warnings issued as wildfires are sparked in Cyprus and Greece

People were forced to evacuate their homes as wildfires struck parts of Paphos in Cyprus where an extreme weather warning of temperatures rising to 45C is in place.

Two firefighting aircraft were sent from Greece to help combat the wildfires after an appeal for assistance via the EU’s civil protection mechanism. 

At the same time the first heat warning of the summer in Greece was issued as a 4.9 magnitude earthquake struck Rhodes.

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The Seismological Laboratory at the University of Athens and the US Geological Survey confirmed the quake struck the island at about 8.20pm on Wednesday.

A spokesperson for the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) told The Sun: “Based on the preliminary seismic data, the quake should not have caused any significant damage, but was probably felt by many people as light vibration in the area of the epicentre.”

The heat warning was issued on Wednesday by the Greek weather service until 8pm yesterday (Thursday).

Temperatures were expected to reach up to 43C in much of central and southern Greece, including greater Athens, the Cyclades islands and Crete.

Some tourist sites were shut to the public for the second day in a row, including the Acropolis in Athens, as Red Cross staff handed out bottles of water to tourists. 

Vassilis Kikilias, the minister responsible for civil protection, said Thursday posed a particular wildfire risk due to the combination of high temperatures and winds.

The Foreign Office last updated its travel advice for the country a month ago.

It currently says: “There are active wildfires across Greece, including in populated areas on the mainland and a number of islands. 

“Wildfires are highly dangerous and unpredictable. The situation can change quickly.”

Wildfires in Rhodes last July led to a mass evacuation of holidaymakers. 

The Foreign Office has not changed its travel advice for Cyprus but points out that “forest fires and wildfires often occur during the summer months due to dry and hot weather”.

The EU has established a fleet of 32 aerial firefighting aircraft and 556 firefighters, pre-positioned across Europe as part of “preparedness measures” for the wildfire season.

Commissioner for crisis management, Janez Lenarcic, said: “I thank Greece for its quick response to assisting Cyprus in fighting the wildfires in the Paphos region by deploying two firefighting aircraft. This is EU solidarity in practice.”

The EU’s emergency response co-ordination centre is closely monitoring the situation “and stands ready to provide additional assistance upon request”.

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