Greek prime minister offers free holidays to Rhodes after wildfires

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Free weeks holidays to Rhodes are up for grabs (Image: Getty Images)
Free weeks holidays to Rhodes are up for grabs (Image: Getty Images)

Holidaymakers who had their stays in Rhodes cut short by the devastating wildfires are being offered a free one-week stay.

The Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, is urging people to come back to the island after parts of it were ravaged by wildfires which tore through hotels and forced tourists to flee onto the beaches in fear.

He said just 15% of Rhodes had been affected by the blazes and that the situation was now “back to normal”. The PM has echoed calls from hoteliers for holidaymakers to return and spend money on Rhodes, which is very reliant on tourism.

Speaking to ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Mr Mitsotakis said: “For all those whose holiday was cut short as a result of wildfires, the Greek government in cooperation with local authorities will offer one week of free holidays on Rhodes next spring, the next fall, so that we make sure they come back to the island and enjoy its natural beauty.”

Greek prime minister offers free holidays to Rhodes after wildfires eideziqkeiqhhinvThe fires ripped across the island at the end of July (dia images via Getty Images)

The PM has not said exactly how the scheme would work or if flights would be included, but it does appear to include peak summer season on the island. Those eligible could number around 20,000, the current figure for how many people were rushed off the island amid the blazes.

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He went on to say how climate change fuelled by human-produced emissions had led wildfires to intensify in recent years.

“We’ve always had the wildfires in the Mediterranean for millennia. What has changed over the past few years as a result of climate change is their intensity. We have no active wildfires as we speak and the weather for the next 15 days looks relatively benign," Mr Mitsotakis said.

In a bid to lessen the chances that such fires could break out again - although the chances cannot be reduced completely as many wildfires are the result of natural combustion - the Greek government is introducing new anti-arson laws.

The authorities are planning to increase fines for arson to 10 times the current level - following a spate of major wildfires that have already caused more damage than the 2022 annual total.

Civil Protection Minister Vassilis Kikilias said details of the measures would be announced next month, but added that fines for causing fires deliberately or because of negligent behaviour would match penalties introduced two years ago for the abuse of animals. Those carry a fine of up to 50,000 euros (£42,000) and a maximum jail sentence of 10 years.

Greek prime minister offers free holidays to Rhodes after wildfiresGreek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis wants tourists to return (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

"I am obliged to say that the next fire season will find us in a different position, It's not just the penalties - the fines will increase tenfold - but we need a ... change in mentality," Mr Kikilias said in an interview with state television late Monday.

The changes, he said, would include school programs and locally based initiatives to promote forest fire prevention awareness. Greece battled 10 major wildfires last month, including blazes outside Athens and on the island of Rhodes, during three successive heat waves.

More than 500 square kilometres (nearly 200 square miles) of land have been burned so far this year, more than double the annual total in 2022, according to the European Forest Fire Information System, a European Union agency that tracks wildfire damage using satellite data.

Milo Boyd

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