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Britons tell of Rhodes evacuation trauma as more repatriation flights scheduled

Britons tell of Rhodes evacuation trauma as more repatriation flights scheduled

British holidaymakers have told of traumatic and miserable evacuation experiences from Rhodes as more repatriation flights are scheduled to take place.

Hundreds of people have landed in the UK after parts of the popular Greek island were ravaged by blazes, forcing many to sleep in schools, airports and sports centres.

A newly wed couple spending their honeymoon on Rhodes spoke of their “traumatic” experience of being evacuated from 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 spending their honeymoon on Rhodes after getting married on July 16 and were evacuated 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.”

She said she and her husband were “very lucky” as they have now managed to take a taxi to Faliraki in the north of the island, where they had planned to stay later in their trip.

A combination of satellite images provided by Planet Labs PBC and taken on Thursday and Sunday showing the extent of the wildfires on part of Rhodes
Satellite images taken on Thursday and Sunday showing the extent of the wildfires on part of Rhodes (Planet Labs PBC via AP/PA)

Mark Payton, from Bristol, was critical of his tour operator 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 Bristol.

“Tui were doing nothing for us at all – no offer of accommodation, no offer of flights or anything like that,” Mr Payton said at Bristol Airport.

“We took it upon ourselves to get ourselves home. We took a ferry from Rhodes over to Kos and found an easyJet flight from Kos back home.

“At 2am we were watching the red glow of fire coming over the mountains, but it was just not what we wanted from the holiday.”

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

FIRE Rhodes
(PA Graphics)

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

A couple from Norwich were forced to evacuate from a wedding party by the wildfires in Rhodes on Saturday.

Dominic Doggett, 30, and his fiancee Hannah Dolman, 28, had to stay on the floor of an office in a hotel after the wedding do came to an “abrupt end”.

After arriving at Gatwick Airport, Mr Doggett told PA: “Mid-afternoon at the wedding we got a notification that said some areas were being evacuated.

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

“With it being a wedding we tried to keep the bride and groom unaware and stay as happy as possible.

“Later in the evening … we got a further notification on our phones from the alert system to say our area was also being evacuated.

“The music cut and the lights came on and the staff said we needed to leave.

“The wedding was due to finish at 2am but it finished three hours early.”

As many as 10,000 Britons were estimated to be on the island.

Greece wildfires
(PA Graphics)

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

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

Tui said on Monday that a fourth repatriation flight has started to bring people to the UK from Rhodes, with another scheduled for Tuesday morning, following the arrival of three flights on Sunday night.

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

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

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

Travel firms have also increased the number of its staff based on the island.

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

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

Sir David King, one of the UK’s leading climate scientists, said tourists should see the Greek wildfires as a “big, big warning”.

He told PA: “If you are in one of these very warm areas and you haven’t got air conditioning indoors you could suffer terribly – many people will die from heat stress.”