The Department of Foreign Affairs has warned against travelling to areas in Greece affected by wildfires, as thousands of tourists and residents on the island of Rhodes were forced to shelter in schools and indoor stadiums on Sunday after they were evacuated from coastal villages and resorts.
The department said on Sunday it had been contacted by a number of Irish citizens affected by the fires in Rhodes, Greece. The wildfires have caused road closures and extensive damage to property, particularly in the centre of the island, and some areas are being evacuated.
Irish citizens are being advised to be alert and stay away from the affected areas, and to move rapidly out of any areas affected. “This is an evolving situation, and citizens should comply with evacuation orders and follow the instructions from the emergency services and local authorities,” the department advises.
Irish citizens should call the Greek Emergency Services on 112 if they are in immediate danger. People should turn mobile phones on to roaming, to receive alerts from local authorities.
On Sunday night, authorities also ordered the evacuation of five small settlements on the island of Corfu, owing to wildfires.
People in Santa, Megoula, Porta, Palia Perithia and Sinies have been advised to head to Kasiopi, another village on the island.
Temporary shelters have been established by the authorities in Greece for tourists who have had to evacuate their hotels. Citizens should contact their tour operator or agency for information on arrangements and flights.
Anyone in need of consular assistance can call the Embassy of Ireland in Greece on +30 2107232771 or the Honorary Consulate of Ireland in Rhodes on +30 2241075655. If in Ireland, the Department of Foreign Affairs can be contacted on 01 4082527.
For those planning to travel to Rhodes, it is important before travelling that they check with their travel operator or agency, or their hotel, to see if the area they plan to visit is impacted by the wildfires and evacuations. There is likely to be travel disruption. The department is advising against travel to the affected areas.
Despite the warning, Ryanair said it is operating flights to and from the Greek island of Rhodes as normal.
A wildfire has raged on Rhodes for six days, forcing thousands of tourists and island residents to shelter in schools and indoor stadiums on Sunday after they were evacuated from coastal villages and resorts.
In a statement on Sunday, Ryanair said its flights to and from Rhodes Airport are currently operating “as normal and unaffected by the forest fires”.
“Passengers departing from Rhodes should be advised that we will accept temporary travel documentation issued by the Greek Police,” it said.
“The Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also set up a help desk at Rhodes airport to assist visitors who have lost their travel documents.
“Please check your Ryanair app where you will be notified of any changes to your Ryanair flight.”
Aer Lingus does not operate flights to Rhodes, but a spokeswoman for Aer Lingus said the airline would monitor the situation in Greece more generally.
“In terms of our Greek destinations as per our schedule our next flights will be Tuesday so we’ll monitor and advise customers accordingly,” she said.
Coastguard vessels and dozens of private boats carried more than 2,000 tourists from beaches on Saturday after the wildfire was fanned by strong winds and rekindled along the southeastern part of the island, popular with tourists for beaches and ancient ruins.
Many fled their hotels when huge flames reached the seaside villages of Kiotari, Gennadi, Pefki, Lindos, Lardos and Kalathos. Large groups gathered in the streets under a smoke-filled red sky waiting to be taken to safety.
The Irish Travel Agents Association said holiday makers on Rhodes should follow local advice.
“Most Irish tourists are in the northern areas of Rhodes which are unaffected. The wildfires are in the south east corner of the island,” it said.
A spokeswoman for TUI Holidays, which flew tourists from Dublin to the island on Saturday, said the company has cancelled all outbound flights to Rhodes up to and including Tuesday, and are contacting passengers due to travel on Wednesday to offer them “free amends to another holiday”.
“Those customers currently in Rhodes will return on their intended flight home,” she said. “We are working with the local authorities in Rhodes who are managing the movement of people, food and power in the impacted areas of the island.
“We have reps on the ground at all evacuation points and have brought in additional team members to Rhodes to support customers in a difficult and evolving situation. We’ll continue to work with the authorities and do everything we can to assist those affected.”
The spokeswoman added that the company “appreciates how distressing and difficult it is for customers who have been evacuated and ask they follow the advice of the local authorities who are managing tourist movements in impacted areas”. – Additional reporting: Guardian