Some 20,000 people had to leave homes and hotels in Rhodes over the weekend as the inferno that began a week ago spread and reached coastal resorts on the verdant island’s southeast, after charring swathes of land and damaging buildings.
More than 2,000 holidaymakers returned home by plane on Monday, and more repatriation flights were expected on Tuesday. Tour operators also cancelled upcoming trips.
Greece is often hit by wildfires during the summer but climate change has led to more extreme heatwaves across southern Europe, raising concerns that tourists will stay away.
Hundreds of firefighters, helped by forces from Turkey and Slovakia, battled to tame the blazes close to the villages of Gennadi and Vati in the southeast of Rhodes as the wildfires resurged in hot, windy conditions.
Wildfires also raged on the island of Corfu, off the west cost of Greece, and Evia island, near the capital of Athens.
“The fires have rekindled across the country but no settlements are being threatened for now,” a fire brigade official told Reuters.
The Greek islands are popular with sunseeking holidaymakers from around Europe in the summer, particularly Britons and Germans.
TUI, one of the world’s largest tour operators, has said it was cancelling trips to Rhodes through Friday and offering free cancellations or rebookings to other destinations. It said it had 39,000 customers on Rhodes as of Sunday evening.
The Dutch foreign ministry has issued a travel warning for Rhodes, as well as the islands of Corfu and Evia.
Greece has seen very high temperatures in recent weeks and the mercury was forecast to rise again through Wednesday, exceeding 44 Celsius (111.2 Fahrenheit) in some areas.
Civil protection authorities warned of extreme risk of wildfires in Rhodes and on the island of Crete on Tuesday.
Tourism accounts for 18% of Greece’s output and one in five jobs. On Rhodes and many other Greek islands, reliance on tourism is even greater.