Repatriation flights fly to Greece as wildfires force tourists to flee
Wildfires raged across Greece on Monday, forcing people to evacuate a beach on the island of Corfu, while tourists crowded an airport in Rhodes after thousands fled hotels and resorts over the weekend.
Fires have been burning in Rhodes since Wednesday, forcing the evacuation of 19,000 people over the weekend as an inferno hit coastal towns on the island’s south-east coast.
Rhodes and Corfu are among the most popular destinations in Greece for tourists who come mainly from Great Britain and Germany.
“We are on the seventh day of the fire and it has not been brought under control,” Rhodes Deputy Mayor Konstantinos Taraslias told state broadcaster ERT.
Tourists spent the night on the airport floor waiting for repatriation flights.
“It was quite a battle on the beach with the smoke,” said John Hope, a tourist from Manchester, England.
The tour operators Jet2, TUI and Corendon have canceled flights to Rhodes.
British airline easyJet announced on Sunday that it was operating two repatriation flights from Rhodes to London’s Gatwick Airport on Monday, in addition to the already nine flights between the island and Gatwick.
The airline said it would add another repatriation flight on Tuesday.
Ryanair announced on Sunday that flights to and from Rhodes would operate as usual.
Its chief financial officer, Neil Sorahan, said the airline was monitoring the situation on Monday.
“We have a lot of customers there who want to go home. We won’t leave them behind, so we’ll keep traveling in and out,” he said.
“At this point in time there is no need to offer more flights. We allow people to book earlier flights.”
Evacuations by sea were underway in Corfu, where about 59 people were evacuated from a beach on Sunday.
Footage from the island showed a mountainous region’s skyline ablaze from fires.
In Rhodes, some holidaymakers said they walked for miles in the scorching heat to get to safety.
The fires left blackened trees and dead animals on the road next to burned-out cars.
Forest fires are common in Greece during the summer months, but climate change has resulted in even more extreme heat waves across southern Europe.
Temperatures topped 104 degrees Fahrenheit in many parts of the country last week and are expected to continue in the coming days.
The forces were also busy with fires on the islands of Euboea, east of Athens, and Aigio, southwest of Athens.