Up to 10,000 British tourists are stranded on the Greek island of Rhodes, the UK government says, as wildfires spread across the popular holiday destination.
A Foreign Office minister refused to advise people not to travel on Monday, suggesting instead that they contact their tour operator.
Andrew Mitchell also said that the evacuations did not take place in Corfu, parts of which were also on fire, as reported. He said this is because the fires there did not affect the tourist areas.
On Sunday, Greece mounted its largest-ever evacuation effort, evacuating 19,000 people – mainly tourists – from villages and resorts in Rhodes as fires fueled by strong winds raged for a sixth day.
Firefighters are battling 82 wildfires across the country, 64 of which started on Sunday, the hottest day of the summer so far.
Holiday firms Tui and Thomas Cook have canceled trips to Rhodes. However, Tui was criticized for continuing to send people to the island on Sunday – even though the gravity of the situation was clear.
On Sunday travel companies and airlines were encouraged to compensate passengers who decided not to fly to Rhodes.
Mitchell put his “best estimate” of the number of British tourists in Rhodes at between 7,000 and 10,000. When asked if the government was officially advising against large numbers of people traveling there on Monday, Mitchell said holidaymakers should contact their tour operator.
“There were only 10 free beds in the whole island when I asked yesterday. But we think something like 1,000 beds may come back on stream now because others are not coming now and therefore more beds will be available,” he told Times Radio.
Mitchell said the government is not advising people not to travel to Rhodes because “it is important to remember that only 10% of the island has been affected by these fires, and therefore tourist companies and holiday experts are best placed to provide guidance when family or individual holidays are disrupted by these events.
Asked if he would personally vacation there at the moment, he said: “I don’t think so. But the bottom line is that when I book a holiday I ask for advice and also ask for advice from the tour operator.
On Sunday night, local authorities ordered the evacuation of five small settlements in Corfu. However, Mitchell told BBC Breakfast on Monday morning: “The information I got a minute before the start of the interview was that there were no evacuations from Corfu, there was movement of people overnight inside Corfu but this morning they were sent back to their previous accommodation. So I hope the situation is better and more stable than your reports suggest.
Mitchell earlier told Sky News he was not sure how many UK citizens were in Corfu, adding: “The position in Corfu is very different. The fires are not happening in residential areas or holiday areas.”