Holidaymakers tell of 'traumatic' experiences as they return from fire-ravaged Rhodes on repatriation flights

A local resident tries to extinguish a fire, near the seaside resort of Lindos (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
A local resident tries to extinguish a fire, near the seaside resort of Lindos (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

More holidaymakers are due to return to the UK and Ireland from fire-ravaged Rhodes as repatriation flights continue.

Hundreds of people have already landed at UK airports after parts of the popular Greek island went up in flames, forcing many to sleep in schools, airports and sports centres.

Foreign Office minister Andrew Mitchell estimated on Monday morning there were as many as 10,000 Britons on the island, but the Foreign Office later said it would not be providing updates on the number of people repatriated.

The Republic's Department of Foreign Affairs has also urged travellers in Rhodes to follow the advice of Greek authorities and to contact consulates on the island for advice on leaving.

Many holidaymakers told of “traumatic” and “miserable” experiences.

A Co Down couple have spoken of the honeymoon they "won't forget" after being caught up in the wildfires raging across the Greek island of Rhodes.

Newlyweds Lee and Rosaleen Ruane from Warrenpoint, who arrived on the island on Tuesday, were rescued by the Greek army in the early hours of Sunday after being stranded on a beach. The Department of Foreign Affairs has warned Irish citizens to stay away  from Rhodes.

Another newlywed couple spending their honeymoon on Rhodes said they were taken out of their hotel amid “intense” smoke and the sound of a child screaming “I don’t want to die”.

Claire and Paul Jones, both 36, from Leicestershire, were moved on Saturday by coach from the Village Rhodes Beach Resort near Lardos.

Mrs Jones told the PA news agency: “It was really quite traumatic driving to where we went because you could see everyone fleeing their hotels, and people were walking along the beaches, walking along the roads, and they had babies and small children.”

FIRE Rhodes
(PA Graphics)

Mark Payton, from Bristol, criticised tour operator Tui and said his family had managed to get back to the UK only after taking a ferry from Rhodes to Kos and then finding a flight to their home city.

He told PA: “It is just devastation over there. You plan for these holidays, and it just feels like a real rubbish long weekend away.”

Another man who landed at Bristol Airport with his young family added: “Miserable, worst week ever.”

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.


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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.

A couple from Norwich were forced to flee a wedding party on Rhodes on Saturday.

Dominic Doggett, 30, and his fiancee Hannah Dolman, 28, arrived at Gatwick Airport on Monday having stayed on the floor of an office in a hotel after the wedding do came to an “abrupt end”.

Dominic Doggett
Dominic Doggett arrived on a flight from Rhodes into Gatwick Airport (Gareth Fuller/PA)

A family from Dorset were forced to sleep at a primary school on the island after ash began falling on the outdoor furniture at the villa where they were staying.

Martin Bowrey, 55, Victoria Bowrey, 51, and Hayden Bowrey, 19, left the villa in Lindos after getting an alert on their phones and slept on “slabs” in the school courtyard.

Tour operators and airlines have been sending repatriation flights to bring people back to the UK and companies have more scheduled.

A fourth repatriation flight operated by Tui brought people to the UK from Rhodes on Monday, with another scheduled for Tuesday morning, after the arrival of three flights on Sunday night.

Greece Wildfires
The fires on Rhodes have spread (Argyris Mantikos/Eurokinissi/AP/PA)

Airline easyJet said it was operating two flights totalling 421 seats on Monday and a third on Tuesday, in addition to its nine scheduled flights to the Greek island.

Jet2 announced four repatriation flights had been scheduled for Monday night, following one which landed at Leeds Bradford Airport on Sunday evening.

Travel firms have increased numbers of staff based on the island.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said on Monday evening that he had spoken with airline companies and welcomed the additional flights.

Greece wildfires
(PA Graphics)

However, people have not been discouraged from going to Rhodes, a decision Downing Street defended.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Our advice is focused on the safety of British nationals and enabling people to make an informed decision about the situation on the ground.

“The current situation is impacting on a limited area in Rhodes and while it’s right to keep it under review and it’s possible that the advice may change, we do not want to act out of proportion to the situation on the ground.”

A Foreign Office spokesman confirmed a team has arrived on Rhodes to support travel operators in bringing Britons home.