Thousands of Britons rescued from Rhodes as flights continue arriving in UK

People have been evacuated from hotels in Rhodes as fires sweep through parts of the Greek island (Ian Murison/AP)
People have been evacuated from hotels in Rhodes as fires sweep through parts of the Greek island (Ian Murison/AP)

Thousands of Britons have been rescued from fire-ravaged parts of Rhodes, with more reportedly facing their summer holidays being cancelled.

Repatriation flights landed in the UK overnight and are set to continue on Tuesday, as holidaymakers spoke of their “traumatic” experiences, being evacuated from hotels and sleeping in schools, airports and sports centres on the popular Greek island.

As many as 10,000 Britons are estimated to be on the island, the Foreign Office said, with 30,000 due to head there in the next few weeks, according to The Times newspaper.

Holiday operators continue to cancel flights and holidays, meaning thousands could be at risk of having their getaway plans scuppered.

An easyJet pilot warned 37 passengers on a 180-capacity plane heading to Rhodes from Gatwick that it was a “bad idea” to travel to the island, BBC Wales reported.

However, Michael Gove said he plans to holiday on the Greek island of Evia, insisting the region is safe for Britons to visit.

The Housing Secretary told Times Radio: “I’m due to go on holiday, God willing, to Greece in just over a week’s time – not to Rhodes but to another island – and I’m looking forward to going.

“Greece is a wonderful country, a wonderful place to holiday, and we do need to support the Greek government in dealing with the situation in Rhodes.

“My heart goes out to those who are affected but the advice is clear – if you follow the Foreign Office advice it is safe.”

FIRE Rhodes
(PA Graphics)

A 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.”

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.”

Greece wildfires
Dominic Doggett and Hannah Dolman stayed on the floor of an office (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Another man who landed at Bristol Airport with his young family said: “Miserable. Worst week ever.”

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”.

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.

Greece wildfires
The Bowrey family, from Dorset, had to sleep in a primary school (Gareth Fuller/PA)

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.

Travel firm Tui carried out five repatriation flights as of Tuesday morning and has cancelled all flights to Rhodes up to and including Friday July 28, with holidays scrapped for those going to affected hotels before and on Sunday.

Airline easyJet said it was operating its third flight on Tuesday, while a spate of Jet2 flights took place on Monday evening.

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