British families have revealed their nightmare journey to safety as they were forced to walk miles and get lifts from locals to escape the terrifying wildfires plaguing Rhodes.
Mother Abi Davies was holidaying with her husband, their friends and the couples’ two young sons when they saw flames approaching their hotel, and were forced to run for their lives.
The families, along with dozens of others, say they were told to stay put, but Abi’s maternal instinct kicked in and they fled on foot – walking around five miles in 42 degree heat to escape the raging flames yesterday.
She said the couples and their ‘petrified’ sons received no help from the authorities or staff, and were only able to get lifts from kind-hearted locals.
Ms Davies shared a dramatic video with MailOnline showing her family being driven away by one Rhodes resident as the inferno closed in.
Brits have been forced to wade out into the sea and jump onto boats to escape the incoming inferno, while others were forced to sleep on the beach away from the flames.
More than 30,000 people were evacuated from the island yesterday, with many others forced to leave their belongings behinds as they take refuge at other resorts.
Those caught in the chaos have blasted holiday firms for a perceived lack of help, as they have been forced to rely on assistance from the overstretched Greek authorities and well-meaning locals.
Are you caught in the fires on Rhodes? E-mail: [email protected]
Abi Davies, who is in Rhodes with her partner and son, and her friend’s family, says the two young boys in their party have been left terrified by the experience. Pictured: Ms Davies’ son Jasper (left) and her friend’s son Finley (right) sleeping on the floor of a hotel reception last night
Smoke rises into the sky as the fire heads towards the Princess Sun Hotel where Abi and her family were staying on Saturday
Kind-hearted locals have been transporting tourists from hotels as they flee resorts threatened by the fire. Pictured: Abi and her group in a car being driven by a Rhodes resident
Abi Davies, pictured, says her family was forced to walk five miles in 42 degree heat to avoid the flames
Abi (far left) had travelled to the island on Tuesday with her husband Chris (far right), son Jasper (second left), her friend Abbey Firth (second right), Abbey’s partner Daniel Maguire (third right) and their son Finley (third left)
Among holidaymakers trapped in the disaster is 26-year-old Ms Davies, who is from Bromborough, Wirral.
The mum arrived on the island with her partner Chris James and son Jasper, along with their friends Abbey Firth, Daniel Maguire and their son Finley on Tuesday.
But what started as an enjoyable summer getaway turned into a holiday from hell as wildfires fuelled by near-record temperatures tear through the popular holiday destination.
The group has still not made it out despite having had a flight booked yesterday, as they were unable to make it through the fires to the airport.
Ms Davies told MailOnline they had been forced to ‘wrestle’ with other terrified families to board coaches in a dash for safety, and revealed holidaymakers have been left hoping for rescue from the Navy and Red Cross as ash falls from the sky.
The family were forced to evacuate from the Princess Sun Hotel at around midday on Saturday when the flames reached their resort.
She said: ‘We called the travel company and were told not to worry and stay where we were.
‘Within an hour the fire had reached hotel grounds. They just turned on sirens and told us all to run. With young children, luggage and no idea where we were going.
‘We then walked five miles in 42 degree heat with no guidance on where to go. Screaming children who are absolutely terrified and crying adults everywhere.
‘Locals were stopping and picking us up to drive us away from flames literally metres away from us.’
Ms Davies said the terrified families were then ‘told to walk to a beach with thousands of people as the fire was trapping us’.
She said: ‘There was thick black smoke and ash raining on us. The kids were absolutely petrified, not to mention there was no electricity so zero lights – it was pitch black apart from the glow from the flames.
‘We were then told to walk another three miles up hill at 11pm to another area as fire had reached too close to the beach. We then wrestled with other people to board the coaches and try and get our kids to safety.’
Since then the group has been staying at the Atrium Prestige Hotel with ‘thousands of people’, but Ms Davies claims they have received ‘no water, no food and no communication from the holiday company’.
She said: ‘We have had to let our kids drink tap water to try and prevent dehydration. There is no air conditioning and people are going to become seriously ill.
‘Our poor boys have tried to be so brave but they are absolutely petrified, as are we. We have no idea what’s going on and can still see flames on the horizon.’
The families had flights booked to leave the island on Saturday night, but with no way of reaching the airport amid the chaos are now stuck.
Ms Davies added: ‘The Red Cross and the navy are supposed to be helping us evacuate so we are praying to get out of here today, but again I contacted holiday firm and they said to just wait for texts.
‘We are currently safe at a hotel, however the wind has changed direction. Ash is falling from the sky and it looks like there is fire spreading towards us again it’s absolutely awful and so scary, we just want to get our boys home safe.’
A firefighting aircraft drops water to extinguish a wildfire in Kiotari village, on Rhodes
A father carries his daughter to safety as hundreds of tourists are evacuated from Rhodes amid a barrage of wildfires
A wildfire burns next to a beach near Lindos, on the island of Rhodes
Tourists are lining up waiting to be evacuated as wildfires break out in Lindos on the Greek island of Rhodes
Twitter user John Hughes took a video of the chaotic scenes as the wildfire rages on the island
Debbie Antione is desperate to find assistance for her daughter Kelly Nicholls since the latter was forced to dash from her hotel with her young family.
Ms Antoine said: ‘My daughter Kell, her husband and two young children along with another family of four had to run for their lives from the Princess Andriana Resort & Spa.
‘All staff and holiday reps were nowhere to be seen regarding the evacuation. They have walked for miles to escape and no one except local people have given them drinks.
‘They’ve had no food since 9am Saturday morning. I’ve tried all the emergency numbers and no one is there to help. They have got to a hotel but they are having to sleep on sun beds.
‘The hotel gave them towels and nothing else, no food or drink. They are literally stranded and have lost everything as they ran in their swimwear.’
Many tourists have been forced to shelter in schools and gymnasiums as authorities work out how to get them to safety.
Mark Hunter and his 28-week pregnant partner were evacuated first to a ballroom in another hotel, and then to a school in Afandou, along with scores of other holidaymakers.
He said: ‘We were first alerted through the emergency evacuation notices system on our phones. The hotel told us it didn’t apply to us, however they started an evacuation half an hour later.
‘Pandemonium ensued, whilst everyone was ushered to a nearby hotel and put into a sweltering function room. It was very disorganised from the hotels with quite a few disgruntled and fearful people.’
Groups of holidaymakers have been taken to a school in Afandou, Rhodes, as they wait for boats to take them off the island in the morning
Mark Hunter described scenes of tension, with many tourists angry and disgruntled at the chaotic nature of the evacuation
Elaine Kerr said her son and his girlfriend were staying at a resort on the island with another couple when they received an alert at 12am telling them to evacuate their hotel.
She said: ‘Luckily for my son, they had hired a car on arrival at Rhodes, so they have packed up and drove to a safe place.
‘They have tried over 15 places to stay for the night but all are full, so currently they will have to stay in their car.’
Janet McDonald told Mail Online: ‘My daughter and granddaughter were evacuated from Princess Sun Hotel Kotari this morning. They were told to walk for 50 minutes and then abandoned on a beach with nothing, no food or water and they have been left there.
‘Now it is pitch black, her phone is dying and obviously the children are distressed.
Tourist Kieran Turner captured this view of Rhodes from his family’s campsite on a beach
‘The Jet2 rep told them to “walk that way” then got in her car and drove off. It’s nearly midnight and all they can see is the fires. Scary stuff and I’m a wreck.’
Another woman told The Mirror how her friend and her family had to flee their hotel on foot in the blistering heat, leaving them stranded at the airport with no money or passports.
Eileen Lawton, her daughter Hannah Gormley and eight-year-old granddaughter Annabelle were also staying at the Princess Sun Hotel when it started to catch fire.
Their friend Glynis Wall said that hotel bosses evacuated, leaving guests to wait for rescue coaches which ‘never turned up’.
‘They said it was like images of a warzone,’ Ms Wall said. ‘Everyone around them was panicking. There were children and babies crying and mothers trying to protect them from the smoke.’
Holidaymaker Emma Marsh said: ‘We are currently in Rhodes – we landed today only to be told that our hotel has burnt down. No one from the airline informed us before we flew.
Friend and family members of holidaymakers contacted airlines in desperation after hearing tales of them being stranded
Guidance from the British Embassy included a hotline for Britons to call for consular assistance
Tourists sit in the back of an open air lorry as they are evacuated during wildfires on the Greek island of Rhodes
‘The car we booked refused to take us anywhere… definitely a lesson to always book a package holiday! We’ve had to sort ourselves out with a hotel for tonight and the insurance company is shut until Monday.
‘I would definitely recommend people do not fly out to Rhodes in the next week.
‘The hotel we’ve managed to find is having power cuts every two minutes, there is no aircon because it’s putting too much pressure on the electricity and it’s just a complete nightmare.’
Fellow tourist Kieran Turner added: ‘Me and my family are evacuees in Rhodes from Rodos Princess Beach hotel. Information from the hotel is sparse and our airline Jet2 is nowhere to be seen other than taking a register around 6pm.
‘I’m currently camping on the beach with my wife, our six-year-old daughter and her two grandmothers.
‘It’s horrible what is happening to the people of Rhodes but we feel completely abandoned by Jet2.’
Hundreds of tourists have been forced to walk miles to safety on the Greek island of Rhodes
Tourists and locals have been ushered into gyms, schools and hotel conference centres on the island where they will stay overnight, while firefighters battle the blaze.
In addition, three passenger ferries have been moored at the port of Rhodes to accommodate those rescued.
In previous days, the wildfire was confined to the island’s mountainous centre, but aided by winds, very high temperatures and dry conditions, it spread on Saturday towards the coast on the island’s central-eastern side.
Tourists evacuated from their hotels took to social media to describe the terrifying scenes, while claiming they had not received support from holiday companies.
Carolyn Clason, on holiday in Pefkos, told the Mail: ‘A lot of families with small children are frightened. Pefkos has just received a message from the Greek authorities telling us to evacuate, but no one knows where to go or how to get there.
Three coastguard boats were leading more than 20 vessels in an emergency evacuation effort to rescue people from Rhodes
‘The scene is chaotic, the beach is full.
‘Transfer coaches have been unable to ferry arriving passengers to their locations due to road closures and its clearly having a knock-on effect.
‘The ash from the fire is like a very full ashtray being spilt on the floor. Swimming pools are covered in thick ash and dust .
‘We’re wishing the rain you have back home would make its way here.’
Members of the coastguard, the armed forces and local authority workers used dozens of buses to help move people away from the fires, said Rhodes municipality official Teris Hatziioannou.
Where the fires had cut off road access, some tourists had to walk to safety.
Panagiotis Dimelis, head of the Archangelos village council, told Skai TV that many locals had rushed to help the tourists.
‘It is an unprecedented situation for the island,’ he added.
For the beach operation, the coastguard said three of its boats led more than 30 private vessels to pick up people from the Kiotari and Lardos beaches on the east of the Mediterranean island.
A Greek navy boat was also headed to the area to help, according to the coastguard.
Later Saturday, fire services spokesman Yannis Artopoios told ERT that new evacuation orders had been issued for the villages of Gennadi and Kiotari with direction to Plimiri on the eastern side of the island.
Holidaymakers board a vessel as a beach in Rhodes becomes engulfed in smoke from nearby wildfires
Smoke rises from a wildfire on the island of Rhodes, Greece
Twitter user Paul Kalburgi reported that he left the hotel with his children and was told by his youngest that ‘he doesn’t want to die’
Whole forests on the island have been caught up in raging wildfires for the past five days
Twitter user Paul Kalburgi wrote: ‘ Currently stranded in #Rhodes escaping the wildfires on foot – left everything at the hotel and fled with towels across our faces.
‘My youngest just told me he doesn’t want to die. No news from any authorities. Terrifying situation here.’
John Hughes detailed his evacuation with his child and claimed there had been little support provided to him by holiday company Jet2.
He posted on Twitter: ‘Jet2 where are you? No help, contact or guidance. Had to walk 4 mile in the heat across dirt tracks in smoke and ash with a 5 year old. No possessions. #jet2 #rhodes #lindosimperial’
User Volcaholic said there were scenes of ‘absolute chaos’ as people left without their possessions.
They said: ‘Crowds of hundreds of tourists and locals evacuate via roads to get away from out-of-control fires ravaging the island’.
Fire Service spokesman Yannis Artopios said on Saturday afternoon that residents of four localities were sent SMS messages to evacuate – in two places they were told to move to the north-east and in two others to the south-west.
Mr Artopios said that more than 200 firefighters and 40 fire engines were operating on the ground, assisted by three planes and five helicopters.
The force includes 31 firefighters from Slovakia, with five fire engines.
The main front of the fire is a triangle, with two of its points near the sea and one in the mountains.
The wildfire was confined to the island’s mountainous centre, but aided by winds, very high temperatures and dry conditions, it spread on Saturday towards the coastline of Rhodes
The wildfires have raged for five days, with authorities issuing an evacuation on Saturday
An empty beach is pictured amidst smoke rising from wildfire burning near Lindos
People try to extinguish a wildfire burning near Lindos, on the island of Rhodes
Tourists were evacuated by boats close to Kiotari village on Rhodes island, Greece on Saturday
Hundreds of tourists have been forced to evacuate from Rhodes as wildfires continue to ravage the Greek island after five days
Families enjoying the summer holidays were forced to pack their belongings hurriedly as evacuations took place on Rhodes, which has been beset by wildfires
A house was razed to the ground after fierce wildfires in Rhodes over the past five days
Firefighters put out a blaze in a yard on the Greek island of Rhodes
Small fishing boats were even used in a bid to remove as many tourists as possible from the island as it burns under searing temperatures
Firefighters are seen near a wildfire on the island of Rhodes
The fires have wrought devastation on Rhodes’ wildlife and scenery, famed as one of the lushest Greek islands
Around 40 customers with Thomas Cook are in the most affected hotels in Lardos and Kiotari. The firm says its remaining customers on the island are staying elsewhere and are unaffected by the current wildfire.
A Thomas Cook spokesperson said: ‘We are monitoring closely the wildfires in Rhodes and are in touch with our customers who are on holiday there.
‘Our teams are in regular contact with our holidaymakers on the island currently as well as those about to depart to discuss their options.’
A Jet2 spokesman added: ‘We are aware of the fast-moving situation in Rhodes and our absolute priority is the health, safety and well-being of customers in the affected area. Our in-resort teams are working hard to comply with the guidance of local authorities, and we are continuing to bring more customer helpers into the area to provide further assistance, despite transport infrastructure challenges.
‘We ask any customers in affected areas to follow the advice of both the local authorities, as well as staff in their hotels, who are acting under the advice of the authorities.
‘In addition to our in-resort team, we have set up a dedicated team in the UK to help co-ordinate our response, and we have sent direct communications to keep customers updated.
‘We are keeping the situation under constant review and continue to make decisions in the best interests of our customers.’
Three coast guard vessels, plus one from the army, were seen evacuating people from two beaches.
Twenty private boats were assisting and the Greek navy was sending a vessel.
The blaze in Rhodes was the most dangerous of several active fires across Greece, Mr Artopios said.
The fire north-west of Athens and one near Sparta were subsiding, he said, although the conditions, including temperatures set to reach 45C (113F) on Sunday and low humidity (below 15%), mean the danger is not over and more wildfires might break out.
The Fire Service has designated almost the whole eastern part of the mainland, plus the islands of Evia and Rhodes, as well as large swathes of the south-west, as category five, the highest for the risk of fire outbreaks on Sunday.
There will be a brief respite in the heatwave on Monday, but it will resume on Tuesday and could last until at least Friday, meteorologists have said.
Firefighting forces from eight EU countries are either operating or due to arrive soon, Mr Artopios said.
Israel, Jordan and Turkey have also sent reinforcements, including aerial equipment.
Are you caught in the fires on Rhodes? E-mail: [email protected]