Rhodes wildfires latest: Evacuations and airline rescues as Britons describe running for their lives (2023)

Key points
  • Up to 10,000 Britons in Rhodes as fires rage- overnight flights took passengers back to UK
  • Fires a 'massive learning curve' for travel companies
  • Sky News Daily Podcast speaks to Siobhan Robbins in Rhodes
  • Your stories: Family 'dumped on beach' after evacuation |'Most terrifying ordeal' - British tourist recounts evacuation |Britons 'fight to get on boats as children fall in the water'| Man in Rhodes has elderly people with him who 'need medicine'
  • Tui announces fifth repatriation flight to leave Rhodes on Tuesday
  • What rights do holidaymakers have?
  • Have you been affected by a heatwave or wildfire?Send us a message on WhatsApp


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What to do if you are in a wildfire area

Here's a short clip explaining the things you can do if you find yourself in an area stricken by wildfires.

There are tips on how to keep smoke out of your car, what to wear and what to do if you end up trapped.


Family forced to evacuate twice while spending savings to avoid flames

By Brad Young, live reporter

An eight-year-old girl from Essex was supposed to be spending this week in Rhodes celebrating her birthday with her family.

Instead, they have been forced to evacuate twice from wildfires spreading across the Island.

Now the girl's parents have been exhausting their savings to escape the flames - and they don't know if they will be able to reach their flight home.

Her father, Iain Bonsor, said the "smoke blocked out the sun" at their hotel in Kiotari on Saturday before staff began running.

The family followed, walking for three solid hours carrying all their luggage and water with the fire on their heels - at one point coming within 30km, said Mr Bonsor.

He teared up as he described the blisters on his children's feet, and how he couldn't carry them due to the weight of all their belongings already on his and his wife's shoulders.

Locals helped the family get to Gennadi, where they thought they were safe before a government emergency alert told them they needed to move again.

Locals gave the family a lift to Prasonisi to escape the wildfires, but now in the south of the country, Mr Bonsor faces the anxiety of not knowing whether they will make it back north to the airport for their flight tomorrow.

"It feels s*** doesn't it. Because any decision I make or we make could potentially be the wrong one.

"If we can't get to the airport then we're stuck," he said.


Tui customers vent their frustration on social media

A number of people who travelled to Rhodes with Tui have taken to Twitter to complain about the way the company was handling customers' accommodation needs as a result of the fires.

Matt Guy said he had been relocated to an evacuation centre and was having to sleep on the floor of a basketball court, saying it didn’t "feel much like alternative accommodation".

Ruby Travers also vented her frustration with the travel firm, tweeting an image of a blow-up mattress and what appeared to be a yoga mat and a towel laid out on the floor, asking how Tui thought it was “OK” to let two families sleep in a school classroom.

Helen Tonks was equally displeased, asking Tui why the company had allowed her and her party to travel to Rhodes despite their hotel being closed.

She added her party of five had been forced to spend the night sleeping on the floor of a school and had heard “no sight nor sound” from the company.

Tui have said in a statement that: “The safety and well-being of our customers and teams remains our top priority.”


Top scientist says extreme weather 'will only get worse'

Former chief scientific adviser Sir David King told Sky News that the extreme weather we have seen in Greece and across Europe this summer is only going to get worse.

He said: "We have to say that this is not an extremely unusual event over the last 10 years.

"In my opinion this is due to the lack of snow and ice in the Arctic which is not reflecting the sun back into space.

"In Europe we are seeing warm air come up from the Sahara desert and giving us extraordinary temperatures.

"This is only going to get worse. We can only anticipate higher and higher temperatures as time goes on."


Mediterranean climate 'particularly susceptible to wildfires'

The climate of the Mediterranean leaves the region particularly susceptible to wildfires.

Sky News climate change correspondent Hannah Thomas Peter said: "The Mediterranean is particularly susceptible to wildfires as mild, wet winters allow vegetation to grow and then hot dry summers turn that into very effective fuel."

She added that the wind had been a huge factor in the spread of the blaze in Greece saying: "On Thursday you could see a cluster of fires in the centre of the island.

"On Friday there was significant shift in the wind speeds and direction meaning that by Saturday these fires had spread massively across the island."


The extreme heat could mean some parts of the Mediterranean are 'off-limits'

Chris Haslam warned while "we've got short memories, and we flock back to destinations," there could be long-term consequences for the high summer temperatures.

"In the longer run, nations around the Med need to start looking at the summer with high temperatures - they're going to continue and be more extreme," he explained.

"It's going to effectively put some parts of the Med off-limits in summer. We need to stop sending people out there in summer... and change the school holiday system to the spring."


Fires are a 'massive learning curve' for travel companies

Travel companies are learning to cope with these disasters but it is a steep learning curve for them, according to travel expert Jennifer Lynch.

"I think it is a massive learning curve.

"You have got to have a lot of people in place to deal with the numbers we are discussing.

"Moving forward many tour operators will look to improve the infrastructure and logistics in case of disasters."

Many companies have tens of thousands of customers in these resorts.


'Operators have plans - but they don't work that well'

You should be thinking about emergency plans when you travel, Chris Haslam says.

He told Sky News tour operators do have plans in place, adding "what we've seen today... when they get the plan out, it doesn't work very well".

"There's not enough communication, and that makes people angry," he said, talking about the more than 7,000 customers on the island.

Mr Haslam predicts people will be booking holidays again come January.


'Check the small print on your insurance' - travel expert

Ms Lynch said her company had managed to rebook some holidaymakers due to go in the next seven days onto resorts in other islands.

However, she added that until government advice changed to say people shouldn't travel, the decision was up to travel agents.

She added that when customers are looking for insurance they should ensure they have curtailment cover.

"If they have booked flights and hotels separately they should check the small print in their insurance policy to see if they are covered," she said.


Rows of hotels are now off limits, experts say

Chris Haslam, travel writer at The Times, said there is now a row of hotels effectively out of bounds.

He said 45 hotels in seven resorts are now off limits, and they may not be damaged, but there are no utilities.

That reduces where tourists may be able to go in Europe, he added, which may squeeze the island.

Mr Haslam said the government advice for travel hasn't changed, meaning people aren't entitled to money back.

He added, however, in the event flights are cancelled, if you've booked a package holiday, you will be looked after by the tour operator in the event you're unable to travel.

"If the government changed its advice on Greece... you'd hear about it pretty quickly.

"If you haven't bought your insurance... you do need to make sure that you've got curtailment cover and look to see that you've got cover for natural disasters."

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