'Difficult days ahead': Greek PM warns as temperatures on fire-ravaged islands set to soar even higher

26 July 2023, 08:39 | Updated: 26 July 2023, 09:09

Kyriakos Mitsotakis has warned of difficult days ahead
Kyriakos Mitsotakis has warned of difficult days ahead. Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

The Greek Prime Minister has warned that people in the country are facing several more days of pain, as wildfires continued to spread, and with the hottest day so far expected on Wednesday.

Greek islands Rhodes, Corfu and Evia and parts of the mainland have been hit by wildfires over the past week, with tourists and locals rushing to escape the flames.

Thousands of British people are believed to be stranded on islands like Rhodes still, although tour operators and airlines are laying on repatriation flights to take holidaymakers home.

Three people are thought to have died in the wildfires, including two pilots whose plane crashed on Tuesday while attempting to drop water on a fire. A farmer in a hard-to-reach area has also been found burned to death.

The country's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis warned on Monday that Greece had "another three difficult days ahead", suggesting that conditions could improve on Friday.

Read more: Two pilots confirmed dead after plane nose-dived to ground in fireball crash while fighting Greek wildfires

Read more: 'I wake up smelling burning': Honeymoon couple tell of nightmare escape from burning island of Rhodes

Thousands of people have been forced to flee
Thousands of people have been forced to flee. Picture: Getty

Temperatures are set to hit 46C on Wednesday, but could drop down to the mid-30s on Thursday, with the possibility of storms.

He said: "All of us are standing guard. In the face of what the entire planet is facing, especially the Mediterranean which is a climate change hot-spot, there is no magical defence mechanism."

Mr Mitsotakis paid tribute to Captain Christos Moulas, 34, and his co-pilot, Second Lieutenant Periklis Stefanidis, 27, who died in a brave effort to put out a fire on Evia. The 41-year-old farmer who died was burned to death on the same island.

The Prime Minister said: "They offered their lives to save lives. They proved how hazardous their daily missions in extinguishing fires are".

Greece continues fight against wildfires on the island of Rhodes
Greece continues fight against wildfires on the island of Rhodes. Picture: Getty

He added: "In their memory, we continue the war against the destructive forces of nature."

Hundreds of firefighters have been trying to put out the flames, including brigades from Turkey, Serbia and Slovakia.

Several other Mediterranean countries, including Italy, Algeria and Spain, have also suffered wildfires over the past week, amid a scorching heatwave in the region.

Palermo Airport on the Italian island of Sicily was shut down on Tuesday morning because of approaching wildfires. The airport was reopened later that morning when firefighters got the blaze under control.

Read more: 'It's like a nightmare': Wildfires break out in Sicily as flights cancelled and airport shuts after temperatures hit 47C

Kyriakos Mitsotakis
Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Picture: Getty

On Tuesday the Foreign Office updated advice on Greece to prospective travellers, as it reminded them to “make sure you have appropriate insurance”.

It added that the fires were “highly dangerous and unpredictable” and were “in populated areas on the mainland and a number of islands”.

The advice is accompanied by the department’s previous unchanged advice to “contact your travel operator or accommodation provider before you travel to check that it is not currently impacted”.

Sicily has also been hit by wildfires
Sicily has also been hit by wildfires. Picture: Getty

It comes after the Foreign Office has been criticised by ministers as they urge the government to formally advise holidaymakers against travelling to Rhodes or any other Greek island affected by the blazes.

On Tuesday evening, travel company TUI also issued a list of hotels that will not be operating until August 11 at the earliest.

The hotels affected are based in the south of Rhodes, although holidays to northern resorts on the island are expected to continue as normal from July 29.

Read more: Arsonists blamed for Corfu wildfires as Greece grapples with blazes while terrified Brit tourists flee

Read more: Two pilots confirmed dead after plane nose-dived to ground in fireball crash while fighting Greek wildfires

Wildfires continue to ravage Rhodes.
Wildfires continue to ravage Rhodes. Picture: Getty

Many of the thousands stranded on Rhodes have been left with no choice but to flee the flames on foot or sleep in refuge centres and the airport.

Around a dozen flights departed from Rhodes to the UK on Tuesday evening - this includes services from TUI, Jet2 and easyJet.

Foreign Office Minister Andrew Mitchell said on Monday morning up to 10,000 Brits were on Rhodes - including those on unaffected parts of the island.

TUI has cancelled package holidays to Rhodes until August 11, while easyJet has cancelled package holidays until Saturday 29 July.

Labour’s Baroness Angela Smith urged the government to “rethink” its travel guidance to Brits in the House of Lords.

While Lib Dem foreign affairs spokeswoman Layla Moran said the advice should be changed to “enable the thousands of British tourists due to fly to Rhodes to safely cancel their holidays without being left out of pocket”.

Different regions in Greece have been affected by the wildfires.
Different regions in Greece have been affected by the wildfires. Picture: Alamy
Thousands are believed to be stranded in Rhodes.
Thousands are believed to be stranded in Rhodes. Picture: Alamy

A formal warning from government would make it easier for holidaymakers to claim a refund on their holidays with less risk of losing out on cash.

On Tuesday Greek officials confirmed the death of two pilots tackling blazes after their plane nose-dived in a fireball crash.

Wildfires have hit multiple regions across Europe, as tourists have been forced to flee Rhodes and Corfu amid soaring temperatures, while wildfires have broken out in parts of Croatia, Tunisia, Sicily and Turkey.

Hotels not operating until August 11

  • Absolutel Kiotari
  • Amaryllis Hotel Lardos
  • Ambelia Hotel (ex Zenith Seaside Hotel)
  • Amfitriti Hotel and Studios
  • Aqua Grand of Lindos Exclusive Deluxe Resort
  • Atrium Prestige
  • Boutique 5 Hotel and Spa
  • Cosmos Maris
  • Eleni Studios
  • Evi Studios
  • Finas Hotel and Apartments
  • Gennadi Grand
  • Gonos Villa
  • Hotel Ziakis
  • Island Blue Hotel
  • Labranda Kiotari Miraluna
  • Lindia Thalassa Resort
  • Lindian Village
  • Lindos Blue
  • Lindos Grand Resort and Spa
  • Lindos Imperial Resort and Spa
  • Lindos Mare
  • Lindos Princess
  • Lindos Royal
  • Lindos View
  • Lindos Village Resort and Spa
  • Lindos White Hotel and Suites
  • Mayia Exclusive Resort and Spa
  • Mitsis Hotel Rodos Village
  • Mitsis Lindos Memories Hotel
  • Mitsis Rodos Maris Resort and Spa
  • Pefki Islands
  • Pefkos Village Resort
  • Plimiri
  • Princess Andriana Resort and Spa
  • Princess Sun Hotel
  • Rafael Studios
  • Rodos Princess Beach Hotel
  • Stella
  • TUI Blue Sensatori Atlantica Dreams Resort
  • White Olive Premium Lindos

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