Rhodes fires: Planes sent to collect stranded Britons

Flights are due to land on Rhodes later on Monday to bring back holidaymakers left stranded by wildfires which have swept the Greek island.

British tourists have been sleeping at the airport, makeshift rescue centres and on the street, after the flames threatened holiday resorts.

Another evacuation order was issued for parts of Corfu, some 1,027km (670 miles) miles away, on Sunday evening.

Boats had been dispatched to evacuate people by sea, an official said.

Homes have already been lost to the wildfires on Rhodes and other areas.

Both EasyJet and Jet2 are planning to send repatriation flights to Rhodes on Monday to get stranded holidaymakers home.

Hundreds of thousands of British tourists flock to the popular holiday destination every year, but have described being stuck in a nightmare.

Many had to abandon their belongings and flee on foot in extreme heat as fires spread from the centre of the Greek island towards its eastern coast, where many resort hotels are situated.

Some tourists ended up in other parts of the island, but with hotels at capacity, others have had to sleep on mattresses in emergency accommodation and in sports halls.

Greece has seen searing heat in recent weeks, with temperatures exceeding 40C across the country, and fires have blazed for nearly a week in some areas.

Rhodes has been battling fires fanned by strong winds since Tuesday and roughly 19,000 people have so far been evacuated from the path of the blaze.

The Ministry of Climate Change and Civil Protection said it has been “the largest evacuation from a wildfire in the country”.

Efforts to contain fires on Rhodes were already well under way when authorities were forced to issue another evacuation order for parts of Corfu.

Fires have broken out on the northern part of the island, which is popular with British tourists, and Greece’s Emergency Communications Service told people to leave the areas of Santa, Megoula, Porta, Palia, Perithia and Sinies on Sunday night.

A national holiday due to take place across Greece on Monday has been cancelled “in view of the extraordinary conditions prevailing in the country due to the fires”.

The UK Foreign Office issued updated travel advice for Greece on Sunday, warning “the situation can change quickly, so you should stay up to date with official advice”.

It has advised those affected by wildfires to follow emergency service guidance and to call 112 if there is immediate danger.

The British government has sent a five-strong rapid deployment team to Rhodes, along with four Red Cross workers, to assist British nationals and support travel operators.


Maria Feggou, of the Hellenic Red Cross, is among those working to get supplies to people displaced by the fires on Rhodes and rescue workers.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the situation is a “nightmare” but predicted the island will return to normality before long.

The Greek government is trying to help, she added, but said “there are fires all over Greece, so we understand they can not provide as much help as we would like to have, because they have to be everywhere”.

George Tsuchnikas, a British man who has a home on the island, told the same programme he has taken in families from Germany, Sweden, Norway and Ireland.

He said displaced tourists are “devastated, they are tired, they don’t know what is happening next”, adding: “Lack of communication and information is the major problem, but people are doing what they can.”

Jack Askin, who landed at East Midlands airport on a scheduled Ryanair flight returning from Rhodes, told the BBC the situation had been “scary”, adding “it was really bad – we got out on Saturday night and it was carnage at the airport”.

Connie Woods, 18, from Newry, Northern Ireland, was sheltering in a school for a second night on Sunday after being evacuated from the Pefki Island hotel.

Ms Woods said there were already hundreds staying at the school, with more arriving. “It’s getting quite crowded,” she said.

“So many young children, families with no luggage, newborn babies. It’s awful.”

Greece’s fire service has warned the situation could worsen as further villages require evacuation.

Deputy mayor of Rhodes, Athanasios Vyrinis warned people were being forced to sleep in cardboard boxes and said there were not enough essentials.

Despite the situation on the ground, flights to the island have continued to operate, with some customers arriving late on Saturday to find their hotels already evacuated.

Airlines and holiday firms are now scrambling to bring customers home:

  • EasyJet announced it would operate two rescue flights with a total of 421 seats on Monday, and a third on Tuesday, in addition to its nine scheduled flights between Rhodes and the UK
  • Jet2 has cancelled all flights and holidays due to depart to Rhodes in the next seven days, but aircraft with no customers on board will be flown there in order to bring people back
  • British Airways said its flights to Rhodes were running as normal, but customers needing to return early could change their flight for free, and those not wishing to travel there in the next week from the UK could postpone their flight
  • Tour operator Thomas Cook said it had cancelled some holidays to affected areas, with full refunds offered. It added some customers booked to travel to other parts on Monday and Tuesday were being contacted with the option to cancel and be refunded if they wished
  • Tui has cancelled all its flights to the island until Wednesday, but customers currently in Rhodes will return on their intended flights home.


Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-66286741