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Corfu blaze alert for visitors

- by Archimedes

Corfu blaze alert for holiday visitors.

Firefighters are struggling to contain a wildfire outbreak on the popular holiday island of Corfu close to major beach resorts. Fire broke out on hillsides along the north coast of Corfu at the weekend and holidaymakers in Corfu beach holiday resorts of Roda, Sidari and Agios Giorgios report smoke billowing from large areas of the hillside.

Firefighters managed to control the blaze which threatened villages and houses and were damping down areas of forest when fires flared up again.

Firefighting equipment has now been ferried in from the mainland to help local firefighters prevent it spreading. It is thought the fire may have been started deliberately.

A strengthened firefighting team on land of 30 fire engines and about 200 firefighters and water-bombing aircraft resumed efforts at first light of day (Wednesday). 

Six firefighting planes and two water-dropping helicopters were involved in  operations over the areas of Lakones, Alimatades and Vistonas.

Although there are no reports of injuries or damage to buildings, holidaymakers have been alarmed at the extent of the blaze. One British tourist reported: 'Another big fire raging on the hill behind Skripero. 

"We saw a house there about to be engulfed by a huge wall of flame. A big fire went up both sides of the main road before taking off up the hillside. Thank goodness we have such an amazing fire service.'

The fire broke out on July 31 near the villages of Scripero, Alimatades, Doukades and Troubeta and burnt down olive trees and meadows. 

The blaze was thought to have spread quickly because of strong force seven winds. Main roads along the north coast were closed to traffic.

The renewed outbreak has raised fears that the fire could spread to major tourist resorts on the Greek holiday island. 

Responding to calls for help from local authorities, fire chiefs from the mainland arrived in Corfu with C130 aircraft, a type of often used for aerial firefighting.

An eye witness said: 'The fire planes have been scooping water out of the sea near the airport. I just hope it is not a bad one and that everyone stays safe. It is quite windy here which will not help.'

The Corfu wildfire is one of several outbreak this summer as the Greek islands are in the grip of a heatwave. A forest fire in Apraos in north Corfu swept across several hectares last month and a fire near Rethymno, in Crete, was fanned by strong winds as water planes were dispatched to aid efforts on the ground. Fires have also been reported on Zakynthos and in several places on the mainland.

The summer heatwave in the Greek islands began in mid July when met officials warned that temperatures could reach 40°C. The heatwave is expected to continue for several more weeks according to forecasts by the Greek weather service.