A chaplain in Corfu is urging people to ask the Lord for rain to damp the wildfires that are raging across some Greek islands. British tourists have been arriving back in the UK today after fleeing from the wildfires which have engulfed the island of Rhodes. Many were temporarily sent from their holiday accommodation to emergency shelters. Overnight around 60 tourists were brought home from Corfu because of more fires there, and evacuations are also taking place on a third island, Evia, east of Athens.
Rev Jules Wilson who is chaplain at Holy Trinity church in Corfu has been speaking to Premier about the situation on his island:
“It sounds like the authorities and the fire fighters, along with local volunteers, have done an incredible job. So although the estimates are that 20,000 acres have been burned they have managed to avert damage to property and life. I believe there are two or three fire fighters in hospital as a result of their efforts - so our prayers are with them. As we stand, I understand that they have contained the majority of the blazes.
Because it was at night, they were unable to use helicopters and planes until seven o’clock this morning, so you can imagine the challenge in dealing with this on foot, in the dark, during the night.
I have heard that ash is on cars even in the middle of the island, 10 or 15 kilometres away."
Adam Playfair from Christian Holiday company Richmond Holidays says not everyone will need to be evacuated.
He told Premier people who are on holiday on one of the affected islands at the moment shouldn't panic, but should follow guidelines and listen for announcements:
"Sit tight and wait for what the authorities are telling you to do. Any measures that you might take because you might want to return home early because you feel at risk, are unlikely to be covered by travel insurance. So do wait for the guidelines."
Rev Jules says his church, Holy Trinity, is rallying around to support anyone who is concerned:
“People are anxious and thinking about those who are dealing with the fires, but life is carrying on.
"We will be offering the chance for anyone to talk and pray if they need to once the immediate threat has passed. The church does offer a “Safe Space” listening service which can be very helpful if there are fears and anxieties that need to be expressed and prayed for. And of course, people can contact me directly if they need to.
"Holy Trinity Church is a very relaxed and welcoming place in a great location in the centre of town so if anyone on the island is feeling stressed about the situation and would like to just be amongst friends, we’re here and you’re welcome. And the air conditioning will be on!
He urged people to pray for those who are involved, “Please pray for those on the front line who are putting their own lives at risk to protect others and their property. We ask for our Lord’s protection and guidance for them and thank Him for the professionalism. We pray for wisdom and a heart of service for the authorities and those making decisions and pray for generosity across Europe in helping and supporting Greece in dealing with this calamity.
"We pray for those who have been directly affected by the fires, for strength and comfort and that they will find the support they need to rebuild once the situation has passed. We must remember the people whose livelihoods are so linked to the tourist season and pray that the impact on their lives is kept to a minimum. And, most importantly, that the fires will be put out quickly and effectively and that if possible, O Lord... you will send rain!"