The Greek island Rhodes has been ravaged by wildfires, with travel companies cancelling holidays and tourists ending up stranded on the island.
The fires started last Wednesday but continue to burn, with more than 19,000 people had being forced to evacuate by Sunday.
Repatriation flights to the UK began landing by Monday night and are set to continue today. According to The Times, the Foreign Office says about 10,000 Britons are estimated to be on the island and 30,000 are due to head there in the next few weeks.
Where are the fires?
The wildfires on Rhodes are located near the midway point of the island, near the village of Laerma, stretching from the centre out towards its eastern and south-eastern coast.
At the coastline where the fires stretch from Laerma, is Kiotari, a resort town.
Rob Sladden had been there with his husband, returning on Sunday night — telling Sky News his experience was traumatic.
They were told to “run” by hotel staff as the fire got closer to where they were staying, with “thousands of people streaming away across the road to the beach,” he told the outlet.
“We ended up walking across the beach in 40C heat with our bags, anything we could carry.
“We ended up hitch-hiking to try and get away, because for us there was no information, there were no officials telling us what to do. Everyone was just running on instinct.”
He said it was a “constant battle to try and stay ahead of the fires” as well as getting information from officials.
The wildfire is also affecting the nearby townships Genadi and Vatican, which are south of Kiotari, and Kalathos, Masari and Malonas to the north. People have been told to evacuate to parts of the island north from these villages.
Google Maps separates the wildfires into two distinct blazes: the Laerma and Eleousa wildfires.
Is it safe to go to Rhodes?
The advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) at the time of writing is for anyone to planning to travel to Rhodes to check with their travel operator or hotel prior to travel.
People already there are advised to contact their travel operators for assistance in returning to the UK.
“If you are a British national affected by wildfires, please follow the guidance from the emergency services. Call the Greek Emergency Services on 112 if you are in immediate danger.”
Rhodes is not on the FCDO’s red list, which is when the office advises against all but essential travel to areas on the list. It often means there are no direct flights between the location and the UK. Countries currently on the list include Russia, Ukraine, Sudan, Iran and Belarus.
The FCDO warns that once coutures are on the list travel insurance may not be valid and consular support from the UK government will be limited.
However, for those yet to travel, it may mean it’s difficult to get a refund if they decide to cancel their trip. Operators are only forced to offer alternative holidays or full refunds when previously safe countries are added to the ‘red list’.
While Jet2, Tui, Thomas Cook and EasyJet have cancelled some or all of their flights or package holidays to Rhodes and surrounding areas, with many travellers being offered full refunds, other companies like Ryanair and British Airways are still operating. Some companies are offering a change of departure date instead of refunds.