Heatwave and forest fires: Belgium updates travel advice for Greece

Heatwave and forest fires: Belgium updates travel advice for Greece
Credit: Belga

The Federal Public Service (FPS) Foreign Affairs has updated its travel advice for Greece following the forest fires and heatwave in the country.

In a statement on the travel advice page for Greece, the ministry advises travellers to "carefully follow the instructions of the local authorities" and to beware of new forest fires that might start in the persistent heat.

"Rhodes is currently ravaged by intense forest fires in the south of the island and more specifically on the coast between Lindos and Kiotari. There are also forest fires on the island of Corfu," the statement read.

It added that the "unpredictability of forest fires" and the movement of thousands of tourists to available hotels on the island of Rhodes as a result of evacuations are reducing the accommodation capacity of some hotels. "Before your departure, contact your tour operator or travel agency for further information about your stay in Rhodes or Corfu."

Tweet translation: "Forest fires in Rhodes. FPS Foreign Affairs has updated travel advice for Greece."

The travel warning also referred to the current heat wave ravaging Greece. "The warning means that the heat is so intense that everyone, not just the elderly and young children, should take necessary precautions, protect themselves from the heat and avoid going outside unnecessarily during the hottest hours," the FPS noted.

Fighting the flames

The FPS Foreign Affairs already decided on Sunday evening to strengthen its presence in Greece to "provide assistance to Belgians present in the areas affected by the forest fires on the island of Rhodes." One FPS employee left for Rhodes on Sunday afternoon.

More than 266 firefighters are working to contain the fire in the south and west of the island in the Aegean Sea, where during the weekend 30,000 tourists were evacuated in "the biggest operation" of its kind "ever carried out in Greece."

A total of 132 Belgians are registered as living on the island with the Belgian Embassy in Athens, while 70 Belgians registered through the 'Travellers Online' platform on Sunday to indicate they were on the island.

Earlier this summer, the government department had asked people to register the dates and places of their trips abroad "so that if something happens in this location, we immediately know who is staying there and we can map how many people would need help."

Firefighters watch as the blaze spreads through vegetation. Credit: Belga

In addition, some 20 Belgian families had reported themselves via the embassy's emergency number or the FPS Foreign Affairs permanent guard service in Belgium. All Belgians on Rhodes who were contacted so far are in safety.

Tour operator TUI, which on Sunday announced it would be suspending all flights to the Greek island until Tuesday, has been able to provide alternative accommodation for all its holidaymakers on the Greek island of Rhodes, adding that, of some 70 tourists it has on the island, "the vast majority have also chosen to stay," mainly to collect their belongings from the evacuated hotels.

TUI on Monday morning confirmed that the situation in Corfu was "under control," noting in a statement that guests at a limited number of hotels were evacuated from their hotels as a precaution.

"At TUI Belgium, only 12 travellers were affected. Meanwhile, the situation there is under control and Greek authorities have again declared the region safe. All holidaymakers have since returned to their hotels." On Monday, the FPS Foreign Affairs plans new consultations to take stock of the situation on Corfu.

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Aside from Rhodes and Corfu, the south of the island of Evia is also experiencing forest fires and evacuations, while fires were also burning on Monday in Aigio, in the north of the Peloponnese, and in Boeotia, a region to the north of Athens.

As of Monday morning, the fight against forest fires in Greece continued. The day was marked by a "slight drop" in temperature ahead of a new heat wave expected on Tuesday. Firefighters are finding it extremely difficult to combat the forest fires, as they are gaining in intensity due to particularly strong gusts of wind.

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