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Rhodes forest fires: Ixelles mayor volunteers to help

21:51 27/07/2023

Ixelles mayor Christos Doulkeridis (Ecolo) has this week joined the team of volunteers helping people escape raging forest fires on the Greek island of Rhodes.

His decision came as at least 20,000 people from the south-east of the island were ordered to leave their homes, according to the Greek government.

"I have just assisted in one of the most impressive citizen movements of all time,” said Doulkeridis, who was born in Brussels to Greek parents.

"The Greek people have saved the country’s honour. Without instructions, hundreds of citizens are organising emergency shelters here and are dropping off mattresses, sheets, covers, water reserves, biscuits and hygiene products.

"I was there because my parents are from this region,” he told RTBF. "However, when I saw what was happening, I could not do nothing.

"The situation here is really apocalyptic. The island has never known such fires and there is also huge chaos as there is no plan of emergency."

Doukeridis said he can make himself useful given his language skills and sense of organisation.

"I speak Greek and other languages well and I also know the island," he said.

"This is why I am mainly on the telephone to hotels, reassuring people and helping to communicate information to the affected people. I have also prepared and washed food like the other volunteers."

After a night spent in a school, the mayor said he did not know how much time he would stay on the island. "I hope that the situation will go back to normal soon, but we will only know in the next few days."

Rhodes has been ablaze since mid-July, the tragedy caused by weeks of heat and drought meaning that residents from 12 villages and all the region’s hotels had to be evacuated as a precautionary measure.

Written by Liz Newmark