Greece offers free holiday to tourists who fled Rhodes fires

Brits who were forced to flee Rhodes wildfires will be given a week’s holiday on the island for FREE next year, Greek PM promises

  • Mitsotakis said the government would compensate for disrupted holidays

Greece will offer a free week’s holiday on Rhodes next year for tourists affected by wildfires that burned for days last month, damaging homes and hotels and forcing thousands to evacuate. 

Recently re-elected Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Good Morning Britain today that the wildfire affected 15% of Rhodes and that the situation is ‘back to normal’ now but authorities ‘understand that it caused some inconvenience for visitors.’

During the interview, he said the government would work with local authorities to offer holidays in compensation ‘for all those whose holiday was cut short as a result of wildfires… next spring, the next fall, so that we make sure they come back to the island and enjoy its natural beauty’.

More than 20,000 tourists and locals were forced to flee homes and seaside hotels after the blaze broke out on July 18 in central Rhodes. Fanned by strong winds, the flames spread to the eastern and southern coast, an area with many beach resorts. 

Tourism is the main driver of Greece’s economy which emerged from a debt crisis in 2018. Rhodes, a popular holiday destination, benefits from a milder climate, giving the island a long holiday season from April through until the end of November.

Pictured: Mitsotakis speaks during a press conference in Cyprus on July 31. On Wednesday, he appeared by video link to tell Good Morning Britain viewers they would be compensated for holidays cut short by the Rhodes wildfires 

A wildfire burns in Gennadi village, on island of Rhodes, southeastern Greece, on July 25, 2023

Flames burn a forest in Vati village, on the Aegean island of Rhodes, Greece, on July 25, 2023

Mitsotakis said during the interview with Good Morning Britain that wildfires in the Mediterranean are not unusual but climate change has increased their intensity.

Greek authorities also said on Wednesday that 45 buildings have been damaged on the island, according to an initial assessment of the Rhodes blazes’ impact. 

READ MORE: Rhodes resort stands deserted after mass evacuation as wildfires spread across Greek isle

‘We understand that this caused some inconvenience for visitors, but I’m happy to report that Rhodes today is more welcoming than ever,’ he said.

The fires killed at least five people and scorched nearly 50,000 hectares (123,500 acres) of forest and vegetation, according to estimates by the Athens Observatory.

Two pilots died last Tuesday when their water-bombing plane crashed while battling a blaze in Evia, while three more bodies were recovered in fires in Evia and near the industrial zone of the port city of Volos in central Greece.

The fires put pressure on Greece’s conservative government, re-elected just a month ago and already battling a slew of scandals, including revelations of wiretapping targeting senior politicians and journalists.

The citizen’s protection minister resigned his post last Friday after it emerged that he had taken a vacation as the country battled the wildfires.

The fires broke amid what experts say was the longest heatwave recorded in July for decades. 

Temperatures reached heights of 46 degrees Celsius (114 degrees Fahrenheit) in some places, while high winds swept the fires quickly across the island.

Fires have also flared in Croatia, Italy and Portugal, and blazes killed 34 in Algeria in extreme heat that has left landscapes tinder dry.

Exhausted locals try to extinguish a wildfire burning in Gennadi village. They had been helping firefighters to try and put the blazes out. July 25, 2023

A firefighting plane makes a water drop as a wildfire burns in the village of Gennadi, on the island of Rhodes, July 25, 2023

Fed by scorching temperatures, dry conditions and strong winds, the two-week inferno had sparked chaos at the peak of the busy summer tourist season

Some families were relaxing on the devastated Glistra beach in Lardos, Rhodes, on July 28

In pictures taken July 29, empty sun loungers can be seen lining the beach in Lardos, Rhodes, after the raging wildfires forced thousands of tourists to be evacuated from their hotels

As many as 10,000 Britons were estimated to be in Rhodes as fires burned, the Foreign Office said, with 30,000 more left in limbo as they were due to head there in the next few weeks.

The UK government did not discourage people from going to Rhodes, although some Tories wanted the Foreign Office to add the island to its ‘red list’ so tourists could get refunds.

The Liberal Democrats were also among those calling on the Foreign Office to advise against all but essential travel to Rhodes.

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