Tourists Who Had to Flee Fires Offered Freebie Vacation

PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis promises them a free week next spring or fall
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 24, 2023 1:00 AM CDT
Updated Aug 2, 2023 2:10 PM CDT
Tourists in Greece Had to Flee Fires in Swimsuits
Tourists sit inside a stadium following their evacuation during a forest fire, on the island of Rhodes, Greece, Sunday, July 23, 2023.   (Lefteris Diamanidis/InTime News via AP)
UPDATE Aug 2, 2023 2:10 PM CDT

The vacationers who had to be evacuated from the Greek island of Rhodes due to wildfires have been invited back—on the government's dime. The BBC reports that while Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis didn't specify how the free week would take shape or how impacted tourists could claim it, in an interview with British TV he said "all of those whose holiday was cut short due to the wildfires" will be able to take one week of free vacation on Rhodes during the spring or fall of 2024. Some Greeks blasted the plan on X, nee Twitter. "Not a single day of paid hotel for the locals, Greeks, and immigrants, who lost their homes all over Greece and slept in the ruins," wrote one person, per the BBC.

Jul 24, 2023 1:00 AM CDT

Firefighters struggled through the night to contain 82 wildfires across Greece, 64 of which started Sunday, the hottest day of the summer so far, the AP reports. Their efforts were without the help of firefighting planes and helicopters, which do not operate at night. The most serious fire was on the island of Rhodes. Some 19,000 people had been evacuated from several locations on the island as wildfires burned for a sixth day, Greek authorities said. No further evacuations had been ordered as of Sunday night. The Ministry of Climate Change and Civil Protection said it was "the largest evacuation from a wildfire in the country."

Local police said 16,000 people were evacuated by land and 3,000 by sea from 12 villages and several hotels. Six people were briefly treated at a hospital for respiratory problems. A person who fell and broke a leg during a hotel evacuation and a pregnant woman remained hospitalized, the latter in good condition, authorities said. A number of tourists were waiting to fly back home from Rhodes International Airport. British tourist Kevin Evans was evacuated twice Saturday with his wife and three young children—first from Kiotari to Gennadi, then as the fire approached the island's capital in the northeast, he told Britain's PA news agency.

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"There were lots of people in Gennadi sent from the hotels—many in just swimsuits having been told to leave everything in the hotel," he told PA. "As night fell, we could see the fire on the top of the hills in Kiotari. They said all the hotels were on fire." Rhodes travel agent Stelios Kotiadis confirmed to the AP that the evacuation was hasty. "There was panic. ... The authorities were overwhelmed," he said. But, he said, the abandoned hotels "are in much better condition than reported in social media. ... They will be ready to reopen very soon if Civil Protection gives the go-ahead." A relative respite from the heat Monday, with highs of 100 degrees forecast, will be followed by yet more high temperatures starting Tuesday. However, it should get significantly cooler on Thursday, with temperatures in the mid-80s to mid-90s, the country's Meteorological Service said Sunday evening. (More Greece stories.)

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