Britons staying in parts of Rhodes not hit by wildfires insisted today that there was ‘nothing to worry about’ – with just 20 per cent of the Greek island affected despite alarmist warnings from many quarters not to travel.
It comes after an easyJet pilot heading to the island issued a warning over the Tannoy to Britons on his plane, telling crying passengers that travelling to Rhodes was a ‘bad idea’ before they got off, according to a BBC reporter on the flight.
Much of southern Europe is experiencing one of the longest, driest and hottest summers on record which scientists say has been caused by man-made climate change.
The Liberal Democrats were among those calling on the Foreign Office to advise against all but essential travel to Rhodes.
But despite the wildfires, those not staying in south-east Rhodes said they were keen to enjoy their holiday, as more Britons fly home on repatriation flights.
The UK has not discouraged people from going to Rhodes, although some Tories want the Foreign Office to add the island to its ‘red list’ so tourists can get refunds.
Britons in the upmarket resort of Kallithea, in the north, told MailOnline today they were not worried about the blaze that has devastated hotels further south.
Holiday operator Tui has revealed all 42 hotels affected in the south-east – in Kiotari, Gennadin, Plimiri, Lardos, Lindos, Pefkoi and Vlicha.
Tui said it had about 39,000 guests on the island, 7,800 or 20 per cent of whom were affected by the wildfires. However it has cancelled all holiday bookings to Rhodes up to and including Friday, with no one being flown there this week.
Hundreds of people have already returned to the UK after parts of the island went up in flames, forcing many to sleep in schools, airports and sports centres.
But Olga Kefalogianni, Greece’s tourism minister, has insisted travellers should still fly to Rhodes because there ‘has been no disruption in the airport’ and only 10 to 20 per cent of the island has been affected by the fires. She added that affected hotel accommodation accounted for 15 per cent of the total capacity of the island.
And UK Housing Secretary Michael Gove insisted the fires had been ‘restricted to one part of the island’ and Rhodes was still safe for British tourists to visit.
More than 260 firefighters were battling flames on Rhodes for an eighth day in a row today, after Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said yesterday the country faced ‘another three difficult days ahead’ before high temperatures ease.
The Rhodes hotels affected include the Rodos Princess Beach Hotel, Mitsis Lindos Memories Hotel, Lindos Royal, Absolute Kiotari Resort and Princess Andriana Resort.
But most other hotels away from the south-east of the island remain open – with airlines continuing to fly in foreign tourists for their summer holidays.
In Kallithea, in the north of Rhodes, which has not been affected by the fires, UK tourists said today they were carrying on with their holidays.
Among them was Kylie Fairgrieve, 51, from Fife, who said: ‘Obviously we are aware of the fire. But the blaze is only affecting 10 per cent of the island and it is over 50 miles away.
‘We love coming to Rhodes, it’s a marvellous place. I know a lot of people have had their holidays disrupted but it’s important that tourists keep coming to Rhodes.
‘The whole island depends on tourism, it’s their main source of employment. For us, there is no difference now as to when we were here in May.’
Mrs Fairgrieve arrived on Friday from Edinburgh with husband Craig, 51.
He told MailOnline: ‘We could see the fires from the plane as we came in to land.
‘But you can see there are miles away. We’re having a wonderful holiday. There’s nothing to worry about.’
The Guest family from Birmingham, said they have hardly thought about the wildfires since they arrived on Friday.
Father Dean Guest, 48, told MailOnline: ‘Our travel company, Trade Winds, told us that there was problem with fires on Rhodes but reassured us that it was a long way from our hotel.
‘And I haven’t really thought about it since. I’ve been sitting by the pool, reading my book and relaxing. We’re not worried.’
Mother Jenny Guest, 44, added: ‘I was a bit concerned before we got here, but it’s been fine. We’re having a great time and the kids love it.’
Louis Bodrozic and his partner Joanna arrived on Sunday afternoon as news of the devastating wildfires was gripping the UK. But the couple from London have not faced any problems.
Mr Bodrozic, 25, told MailOnline: ‘It’s a sad situation for those people who have been affected. But everything has gone very smoothly for us.’
Alex Head and Callum Melhuist from Bristol found themselves caught up in the hotel evacuations on Saturday, but have put it behind them.
Ms Head, 31, explained: ‘We took a boat trip down to Lindos, which is right in the fire zone. When we docked the police made us get off the boat so they could use it to evacuate people from their hotels.
‘It was a bit of a drama. But we just walked up the hill and got the local bus back to our hotel in Kallithea.
‘I feel sorry for the people who have been affected by the fires. But we’ve still had a nice holiday.’
One family were forced to divert to a different hotel upon arrival as their resort was cut off by the flames.
Mother Caroline Pickering from St Albans told MailOnline: ‘We were booked into a hotel in Lindos. But when we arrived on Sunday we learnt that it was cut off by the fire.
‘So our tour operator Trailfinders changed our booking to this hotel here in Kallithea instead. And it’s been fine. My son Rory has been snorkelling and me and my husband Steven have been relaxing on the beach. It’s been fine.’
A statement from Tui on its website last night said: ‘All bookings of Tui holidays to Rhodes will be cancelled up to and including Friday, July 28, 2023.
‘No guests will be taken to the island up to and including Friday, however aircraft will fly out empty to Rhodes so scheduled inbound flights will take place to bring guests back to their home countries.
‘Guests with bookings whose holidays start in the coming days up to and including Sunday, July 30, 2023 can rebook for other destinations or cancel their trip free of charge.
‘We therefore encourage customers with a planned holiday to Rhodes in the coming days, to switch to other destinations.’
Thousands of Britons have been rescued from fire-ravaged parts of the island, with more now facing their summer holidays being cancelled.
Repatriation flights landed in the UK overnight and are set to continue today, as holidaymakers spoke of their ‘traumatic’ experiences, being evacuated from hotels and sleeping in schools, airports and sports centres on the popular Greek island.
Ms Kefalogianni was asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether people should fly to Corfu, where nearly 2,500 people were also evacuated yesterday.
And she said: ‘But this is also the case for Rhodes, if I may add, because there has been no disruption in the airport and I think it’s particularly important to stress that only a small part of the whole island of Rhodes is affected.
‘It’s approximately an area which is 10 to 20 per cent of the total area of the island.
‘When it comes to hotel accommodation, so disruption in terms of tourism, it’s 15 per cent of the total capacity of the island.
‘So, yes, indeed, this was the largest evacuation that Greece has ever done, and it happened in a matter of a couple of hours. We’ve coordinated mobilisation of all resources, but everybody is safe.’
As many as 10,000 Britons are estimated to be on the island, the Foreign Office said, with 30,000 due to head there in the next few weeks, according to The Times.
Holiday operators continue to cancel flights and holidays, meaning thousands could be at risk of having their getaway plans scuppered.
Today it emerged that an easyJet pilot heading to Rhodes had issued a stern warning to Brits on his plane.
Some 37 passengers, including a young boy, attempted to fly out of Gatwick despite terrifying fires scorching the Greek island, sparking the country’s biggest evacuation in history.
But in the final moments before take-off, the pilot issued a stark warning, telling passengers on board the 180-seat capacity aircraft that travelling to the resort island was a ‘bad idea’.
The pilot reportedly told passengers over the Tannoy before take-off: ‘Travelling to Rhodes for a holiday at the moment is a terrible idea. As far as I’m concerned, this flight is being operated on an emergency basis. Return flights are now being managed by the military. If you want to get off flight, you are welcome to do so.
‘I don’t know in what capacity you are travelling, but if you are travelling for leisure, my sincere recommendation is it’s a bad idea.’
Journalist Gwyn Loader, who was on the flight to Rhodes to report for BBC Wales’ Welsh-language news programme Newyddion, said that eight passengers chose to listen to the advice and disembark, including the young boy who was in tears.