Rhodes, July 25 (BNA) Greece was struggling to contain forest fires on the island of Rhodes for the seventh day on Tuesday, as hundreds of tourists who were forced to evacuate in the previous days were expected to return to their countries.
Reuters reported that about 20,000 people had to leave their homes and hotels in Rhodes over the weekend as the inferno that began a week ago spread to coastal resorts in the southeast of Algeciras, after large swaths of land were charred and buildings damaged.
More than 2,000 holidaymakers flew home on Monday, and more return flights are expected on Tuesday. Tour operators also canceled upcoming trips.
Greece is often plagued by wildfires during the summer, but climate change has led to sweltering heat waves in southern Europe, prompting fears that tourists will stay away.
Hundreds of firefighters, aided by troops from Turkey and Slovakia, battled to extinguish blazes near the villages of Gennady and Vati in southeastern Rhodes as wildfires rekindled in hot and windy conditions.
Forest fires also raged on the island of Corfu, off the west coast of Greece, and on the island of Evia, near the capital, Athens.
“There are fires burning across the country, but there are no threatened settlements at the moment,” a fire brigade official told Reuters.
The Greek Islands are popular with holidaying tourists from all over Europe in the summer, especially the British and Germans.
TUI, one of the world’s largest tour operators, said it has canceled trips to Rhodes until Friday and is offering free cancellation or rebooking to other destinations. It said it had 39,000 clients in Rhodes as of Sunday evening.
The Dutch Foreign Ministry has issued a travel warning for Rhodes, as well as the islands of Corfu and Evia.
Greece has seen very high temperatures in recent weeks, and the mercury is expected to rise again until Wednesday, exceeding 44 degrees Celsius (111.2 Fahrenheit) in some areas.
Civil protection authorities warned of the risk of forest fires raging in Rhodes and Crete on Tuesday.
Tourism accounts for 18% of Greece’s output and one in five jobs. On Rhodes and many other Greek islands, the reliance on tourism is even greater.
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