More than 2,000 holidaymakers were flown home on Monday, tour operators cancelled upcoming trips, and residents took shelter as wildfires raged on the Greek island of Rhodes for the seventh day.
Repatriation flights are due to continue into Tuesday as the fires remained out of control. The Civil Protection authority warned the threat of further blazes was high in almost every part of Greece, which is in the grip of a record-breaking heatwave that has also seen archaeological sites close.
TUI, one of the world’s largest tour operators, said it was cancelling trips to the island through Friday and offering free cancellations or rebookings to other destinations. It said it had 39,000 customers on Rhodes as of Sunday evening.
On Monday, it deployed six extra planes to fly tourists home to Britain and Germany. The Greek islands are popular with sunseeking tourists from around Europe in the summer and particularly Brits and Germans.
The Dutch foreign ministry issued a travel warning for Rhodes, as well as the islands of Corfu and Evia, where wildfires had also broken out.
Some 20,000 people were forced to leave homes and hotels in Rhodes over the weekend as the inferno that began last Tuesday reached coastal resorts on the island’s southeast.
A fire brigade spokesperson said hundreds more people were evacuated from two other areas of Rhodes on Monday and seven firefighting aircraft would continue battling the flames until nightfall.
“Firefighting forces have not stopped operating since Tuesday,” spokesperson Ioanis Artopios told Reuters. “Crews have been heading from Athens to replace their colleagues… they are working in very tough conditions amid extreme heat.”
Greek coastguard vessels have also been patrolling the coastline, having evacuated some tourists by sea at the weekend.