- By Thomas Mackintosh, Oliver Slow & Rachel Russell
- BBC news
British tourists continue to cut their vacation short as fires burn on the Greek island of Rhodes.
Repatriation flights landed in the UK on Monday evening with many leaving Greece throughout Tuesday.
The State Department has updated its guidance, telling people traveling to affected areas to make sure they have the “appropriate insurance”.
The Liberal Democrats have urged ministers to advise against traveling to Rhodes to support a travel insurance claim.
Jet2 has nine flights scheduled to depart from Rhodes on Tuesday, some of which have spare seats to accommodate additional passengers trying to leave the island.
Easyjet said there were extra seats on Wednesday’s flights.
Earlier, one of the pilots of the airline carrying British tourists to Rhodes urged passengers in Gatwick to get off the plane before take-off.
“I don’t know what you’re traveling as, but if you’re traveling for pleasure, my sincere advice is that it’s not a bad idea,” the pilot told passengers on board.
BBC Wales reporter Gwyn Loader, who was traveling to Rhodes to cover the bushfires, said eight passengers had accepted the pilot’s offer, including a young boy who was in tears.
On Monday morning, Foreign Affairs Secretary Andrew Mitchell said a total of 10,000 Britons were in Rhodes – this number includes tourists in unaffected parts of the island.
Jet2 – which has made repatriation flights to Manchester, Leeds-Bradford, Glasgow and Stansted overnight – said “about 1,000 customers” have flown back to the UK or have been moved to hotels in unaffected areas.
EasyJet and Tui have canceled outbound package holidays to Rhodes through Saturday and Friday respectively.
Instead of officially advising tourists not to travel to the affected Greek islands, the Foreign Office said people should check with their hotels and tour operators, explaining how to register for emergency alerts.
updated advice said the fires were burning “in densely populated areas of the mainland and some islands” and were “very dangerous and unpredictable”.
The State Department advises those visiting affected areas to make sure they have “appropriate insurance” and directs tourists to a number of resources they can use if they are near a fire.
Earlier, Senior Minister Michael Gove said he was still planning to go on holiday to Greece next week. He told Sky News he was going to Evia, one of the islands that issued an evacuation order.
He told BBC Breakfast that Greece was “safe” and a “great place for those lucky enough to be abroad to spend time this summer”.
But the government advice was criticized at the House of Lords by Labour’s Baron Angela Smith, who urged the government to “rethink” its guidance.
Layla Moran, the Liberal Democratic Party foreign affairs spokeswoman, called for a change in travel advice as she said it would “allow thousands of British holidaymakers about to fly to Rhodes to safely cancel their holidays without getting pickpocketed”.
Marc Bolland, editor of which newspaper? magazine, said many travelers would not be able to claim a refund using travel insurance without an official government travel warning.
“There will be some cover, but it won’t be great,” warned Mr Boland. “As a rule, insurance won’t subsidize ‘don’t want to travel’.”
Train operator London North East Railway (LNER) is offering free travel to travelers returning from Rhodes and Corfu.
It said standard travel along the east coast route would be free for anyone who landed at an airport other than their home location or had to travel on a different day.
Customers must present a stamped passport and airline boarding pass confirming travel from the islands within the previous 24 hours to use the service from July 25 to August 7.
Coaching company National Express is also offering free travel to people arriving at another UK airport from which they have flown.
In an update, deputy fire chief Ioannis Artophios said the most severe fires were developing in Rhodes and Corfu. Crete – the largest of the Greek Islands – has been put on high alert because of a high risk of fire.
They are named Cdr Christos Moulas, 34, and his co-pilot, Pericles Stefanidis, 27.
In the last week, more than 35,000 hectares (86,500 acres) of forest and other land have been burned by fire in Greece, the World Wildlife Fund said.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told his cabinet the next three days “will be difficult” but he expects conditions to be easier from Friday.
“Let me say the obvious,” he said. “That in front of what the whole planet is facing, especially the Mediterranean, a hotbed of climate change, there is no magic defense.
“If it was, we’d obviously have done it.”
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