Northern Ireland

Arlene Foster returns from holiday in Greece as wildfires rage

Wildfires are continuing to tear through the Greek island of Rhodes. Picture: Argyris Mantikos/Eurokinissi via AP
Wildfires are continuing to tear through the Greek island of Rhodes. Picture: Argyris Mantikos/Eurokinissi via AP Wildfires are continuing to tear through the Greek island of Rhodes. Picture: Argyris Mantikos/Eurokinissi via AP

Former first minister Arlene Foster has told of how she has just returned from a holiday in Greece as the wildfires continue to rage.

Dame Arlene spoke about how she “feels so sorry” for holidaymakers from the UK trapped on the Greek island of Rhodes, which has been ravaged by flames.

Recalling how she was initially being “oblivious” to the fires on the island, she later learned that a restaurant she had visited was burnt to the ground.

This afternoon new evacuations were ordered in south Rhodes after 19,000 people, mostly tourists, were moved in buses and boats over the weekend out of the path of the fire that reached several coastal areas from nearby mountains.

The former DUP leader returned home on Sunday morning.

Writing on Twitter, she said: “Watching the terrible story of the fires in the Greek island.

"I came home from Rhodes on Sunday and feel so sorry for all those wonderful people in Rhodes who have lost their homes and livelihoods and wish safe passage to all those trying to get home to the UK.”

She also told of her experience on the Greek island in an interview with GB News.

"The thing is I had a wonderful holiday and was quite oblivious to what was going on on other parts of the island until Saturday when I was due to leave (that evening),” she said.

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"We had been to such beautiful places in Rhodes, including a gorgeous little restaurant by the beach – and on Saturday evening I found out it was completely burnt to the ground.

"The place where I had been all day on Thursday...and on Saturday evening, my daughter looked at Twitter and it was burnt to the ground.

"When we were taking off on early Sunday morning, we could look back and see the fires raging on the ground. I had been walking around the town that day, no one was concerned but when I got to the airport that’s when I got concerned.”

She also said she was “very fortunate” that they had managed to get a flight home as numerous travel companies had cancelled flights.

Mrs Foster added that the "lovely people of Rhodes who work and live there, who were telling us they don’t make much money during the winter, are now devastated".

"I’m told they have fires most summers but this is certainly the worst they’ve had in many years," she said.

But she said she would not be put off visiting the island again in the future.

“I would go back, particularly because the tourist season is their biggest industry," she said.

"They were so lovely and wonderful people. This is devastation for them."

Jet2 announced this afternoon that it is increasing the number of flights to Rhodes and flying more staff to the island to provide support to customers on the island.

Flights and holidays to Rhodes have also been cancelled up to and including July 30.

The next Jet2 flight from Rhodes to Belfast will depart tomorrow evening.