Cabinet minister Michael Gove says he is going on holiday to a Greek island which is experiencing wildfires – as he insisted the region is “safe”.
The housing secretary told Sky News he was heading to Evia – a large island just off the coast of Athens – in “just over a week”.
It has seen fires in southern parts of the island, which is around 100 miles long. The islands of Corfu and Rhodes have also been gripped by flames in recent days, sparking mass evacuations.
Evacuations have taken place on Evia in recent days due to the situation there.
Mr Gove said it was “safe” to go to Rhodes, and the fact that “particular” parts of the island needed to be evacuated was “unfortunate”.
He added that it was “absolutely right” that people were still able to go on holiday to Greece.
Mr Gove said: “It’s a tragedy that these fires have ruined what should be the… the happiest, the most enjoyable time of the year for many.
“But it is also the case that I think that the criticism directed at individual firms isn’t necessarily merited.”
The minister was staunch in his support for the travel companies, despite some people complaining that they were being flown to the wildfire zones up until Saturday, or being left unable to get in contact with anyone as they try to return to the UK.
He also played down how widespread the blazes are.
Mr Gove said: “I think it’s the case that obviously the fires on Rhodes have been tragic, and my heart goes out to those affected.
“But it is also the case, I think, as the Greek minister for tourism was pointing out yesterday, that the fires – while horrific – have been restricted to one part of the island.
“So, again, appropriate advice has been followed, it’s been put forward by the Foreign Office here that it is safe to go to Rhodes – but obviously evacuation in a particular part of the island has been important.”
Praising the travel firms, Mr Gove said that “individual travel firms have actually shown a great degree of responsibility in making sure that they are available to take people back in some circumstances” – adding that they will “make their own commercial decisions in line with government advices”.