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Is it safe to travel to Greece? Latest Foreign Office advice for Rhodes, Corfu and Crete as fires continue

Temperatures of over 40C have led to an outbreak of fires across islands in Greece, with the blaze in Rhodes causing more than 20,000 people to be evacuated.

Orders to evacuate have also been issued on the islands of Corfu and Evia.

Foreign Office Minister Andrew Mitchell said that on Monday as many as 10,000 Britons were on Rhodes in total, including unaffected areas.

Can I travel to Greece?

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office says: “Extreme temperatures are affecting many areas of Greece. 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. Follow “112 Greece” on Twitter for official updates.

“Read the NHS advice on coping in hot weather.

If you are travelling to an area affected by wildfires – If you are due to travel to an area that might be affected by wildfires, contact your travel operator or accommodation provider before you travel to check that it is not currently impacted. Make sure you have appropriate insurance.

If you are in or near areas affected by wildfires – Be cautious if you are in or near an area affected by wildfires. You should:

  • Follow the guidance of the emergency services;
  • Call the Greek Emergency Services on 112 if you are in immediate danger;
  • Contact your airline or travel operator who can assist you with return travel to the UK;
  • Dnable the “Emergency Alerts” option to receive the Greek government’s emergency alerts. For:
  • iPhones go to Settings > Notification. Enable the “Emergency Alerts” option at the bottom;
    • Android 11 and higher go to Settings > Notifications > Advanced Settings > Wireless Emergency Alerts;
    • Samsung Devices go to Settings > Apps > Messages > Notifications > Emergency Notifications. Enable the “Emergency Alerts” option.
  • Read the Greek Government’s protection guidelines in the event of a forest fire;
  • Register via the Greek government’s Emergency Communication Service (in Greek).

The Greek government has set up a Crisis Management Unit to facilitate the evacuation of foreign visitors from Rhodes due to the ongoing forest fires. Contact them for advice on:

  • +30 210 368 1730
  • +30 210 368 1259
  • +30 210 368 1350

If you need consular assistance – If you are a British national and need consular assistance, call our 24-hour helpline on +44 20 7008 5000.”

Where are the fires?

The fires in Rhodes started in the mountains in the centre of island, where a number of people were evacuated last week. Since then, flames and smoke have spread south and eastwards towards the major tourist hub of Lindos along with Lardos, Kiotari, Gennadi, Pefki and Kalathos.

In Corfu, people in the areas of Santa, Megoula, Porta, Palia Perithia and Sinies have been told to move to Kasiopi – while those in Rou, Katavolo, Kentroma, Tritsi, Kokokila, Sarakiniatika, Plagia, Kalami, Vlachatika and Kavalerena are being advised to relocate to Ipsos.

There are other fire warnings in place across the country, including in the region of Attica, close to Athens, and on the island of Evia.

RHODES ISLAND, GREECE - JULY 25: Smoke rises as teams try to extinguish wildfires on Rhodes island, Greece on July 25, 2023. Some 19,000 people have been evacuated from the Greek island of Rhodes as wildfires continued burning for a sixth day, authorities said on Sunday. As many as 266 firefighters and 49 fire engines were on the ground battling the blazes, assisted by five helicopters and 10 airplanes. (Photo by Ahmed Abbasi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Smoke rises as teams try to extinguish wildfires on Rhodes (Photo: Ahmed Abbasi/Anadolu Agency via Getty)

Whats the latest?

Wildfires raging across Greece for more than a week showed some signs of abating on Wednesday, though firefighters still battled on several fronts to contain blazes that have killed three people and caused thousands of tourists to evacuate.

Firefighters were tackling a fire on the island of Evia, where two pilots were killed on Tuesday when their Canadair CL-215 plane, which was dropping water onto the flames, crashed into a hillside. A 41-year-old stockbreeder, missing since Sunday, was also found burned in a shack in a remote area.

On the island of Rhodes, where more than 20,000 foreign visitors and locals fled seaside hotels and homes over the weekend, dozens of firefighters tried to tame three fronts more than a week after the wildfires broke out, the fire brigade said.

“Wildfires across Greece have abated but firefighters are still operating at different spots,” a fire brigade official added.

On Wednesday the Greek government sought to contain damage to the reputation of one of its key revenue earners. Greece is heavily reliant on tourism and Rhodes, one of its biggest islands, is among its top summer destinations, attracting about 1.5 million foreign tourists in the summer months.

Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni said that wildfires have affected only a small part of the island.

“We have contacted the chamber of hoteliers and we want to see how we can bring people with holiday vouchers back,” she told Open television.

Rhodes Satellite image taken from https://firms.modaps.eosdis.nasa.gov/map/#d:24hrs;@28.0,36.1,11z
Locations of fires on Rhodes (Image: Nasa)

On the island of Corfu, where a wildfire rekindled overnight without threatening homes, a local governor said he suspected arson.

“Suddenly, there was a fire out of nowhere… we have not slept for three-four days now to watch out for such incidents,” Nikos Mouzakitis, a deputy mayor in northern Corfu told state television ERT.

Wildfires in Greece are common in the summer but hotter, drier and windier conditions, the result of a climate change, have turned the country into a Mediterranean hotspot in recent years.

The high temperatures in Greece were set to rise on Wednesday to exceed 45°C in some areas and the government said the Acropolis in Athens, one of the world’s most visited tourism sites, will shut at 11am.

The mercury was forecast to fall on Thursday.

What if I have a holiday booked?

That depends on how you booked your holiday.

Tui had carried out five repatriation flights by Wednesday morning and has cancelled all flights to Rhodes up to and including Friday, with holidays scrapped for those going to affected hotels before and on August 11.

Passengers due to travel up to and including Sunday for all areas of Rhodes will be offered a fee-free amend to another holiday or the option to cancel for a full refund. Flights from Rhodes back to the UK & Ireland are being operated as scheduled.

Jet2 said it had cancelled all flights and holidays to Rhodes until Sunday and around 1,000 Britons in affected areas have either flown home or moved to hotels in unaffected parts of the island. It said it would make a decision on what happens beyond Sunday in the coming days.

Thomas Cook said holidaymakers who “choose to do so” continue to arrive in other parts of the island, and the firm has issued refunds for all customers who had booked to stay in Kiotari and Lardos on Rhodes’s south-east coast up to and including Monday.

It added that if those customers no longer wish to travel to Rhodes they can amend their holiday to a different destination or departure date or receive a full refund.

What have travel experts said?

Paul Charles, CEO of travel PR firm PC Agency, said: “Sadly we’re going to have to get used to more incidents like this – wildfires in the southern Mediterranean are going to become more common, so the travel industry needs to rework its plans for how to deal with this sort of thing.

“Consumers will want more reassurance in the future about the hotspot areas that will mean airlines and travel operators will need to have better plans in place for dealing with these sort of crisis and that might mean more flexible refund policies, it might mean putting more resources on the ground in a destination over the summer period so that they’re prepared.

“I do think the Foreign Office now needs to conduct a complete overhaul of its travel advice system.

“It failed the industry this week because the advice didn’t change and also consumers were caught between a rock and a hard place as they knew they would lose their money if they didn’t carry on with their booking and fly into the zones affected.

“There needs to be a complete overhaul of the Foreign Office travel advice system – what it’s for, how it changes and it needs to be in consultation with the industry.

“Either they create a whole new system, or the Foreign Office doesn’t do travel advice and creates a new code of conduct for airlines and travel operators to follow.

“It’s left consumers confused and worried about losing their money. The travel advice from the Foreign Office is not fit for purpose for climate change.”

This aerial view taken on July 26, 2023, shows a firefighter operation against a fire near Vati, on the Greek Aegean island of Rhodes. Wildfires have been raging in Greece amid scorching temperatures, forcing mass evacuations in several tourist spots including on the islands of Rhodes and Corfu. (Photo by Spyros Bakalis / AFP) (Photo by SPYROS BAKALIS/AFP via Getty Images)
A firefighting operation against a blaze near Vati on Rhodes (Photo: Spyros Bakalis/AFP via Getty)

Mr Charles added of the wildfires: “Clearly it will happen again in the future, if not this year then next year. This is a wake-up call for airlines and travel firms to rethink their response plans in this sort of situation.”

One of the UK’s leading climate scientists, Sir David King, said climate change is set to fuel more severe blazes in the future, and tourists planning trips to the Mediterranean should see the Greek wildfires as a “big, big warning”.

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said some travel companies “dragged their feet” on updating flexible booking policies, making holidaymakers choose between “travelling into a natural disaster zone, or sensibly cancelling and losing their money as a result”.

He added: “Without a Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office warning against travel to the affected regions, travellers who don’t want to go but are refused flexibility to rebook are likely to be left holding the bill for acting sensibly, and will be unable to claim on their travel insurance.”

Which? Travel urged holidaymakers due to visit the island in the coming weeks not to cancel now as they may not get a refund.

But trade association Abta said the travel industry is “well-versed in responding to international events”.

A spokesperson said: “The number one priority has been – and always will be – people’s health and safety. The response to the wildfires in Rhodes has been a collaboration between the Greek authorities, travel industry and UK Foreign Office.

“The travel industry is well-versed in responding to international events, particularly in rapidly changing circumstances, with the health and safety of customers the priority.

“It has clearly been a very difficult and upsetting time for those affected by the wildfires, both in Rhodes and due to travel, and Abta members have been working flat out to support those customers.

“The purpose of the Foreign Office travel advice is to provide important advice on destinations. Rhodes is a large island and a significant proportion is unaffected by the wildfires, meaning people can and have been able to continue to enjoy holidays in those parts.

“We know many people want to continue to holiday in Rhodes this week and have done so.”



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