British tourists in limbo after fleeing Rhodes wildfires
Tourists have been left in limbo after wildfires spreading across the Greek island of Rhodes forced thousands to flee their hotels.
One family has resorted to sleeping on mattresses on the floor in a hotel conference room, while others are desperately looking for alternative accommodation.
More than 3,500 people have been evacuated by land and sea to safety.
Greece’s fire service has apologized and cautioned the situation could worsen.
A further 1,200 will be evacuated from three villages – Pefki, Lindos, and Kalathos.
Rhodes has been battling wildfires fanned by strong winds since Tuesday, as Europe deals with a challenging heatwave.
Lesley Young – who showed up in Lindos, Rhodes on Saturday morning – said they couldn’t go to their hotel since it had been evacuated.
Despite having holiday insurance worth £2,000 to use for alternative accommodation, Ms. Young said: “We have not been able to find anything at all.”
“So we have been taken to the sister hotel of the one we booked and they have set up mattresses on the floor of one of their conference rooms.
“They have really tried to do the best but we have no idea how long we will be in this situation.”
Ms Young, who is on holiday with a group of seven including three children and four adults, said they had a two-week holiday booked but were unsure if they would stay that long.
“Luckily we have our luggage and the children are jumping up and down on the mattresses,” she added.
No injuries have been reported, according to the Ministry of Climate Crisis and Civil Protection in Greece.
It said tourists are being evacuated safely from the affected areas – which represent less than 10% of the island’s tourist accommodation – and are being redirected to other hotels on the island.
The deputy mayor of Rhodes has warned that there are not enough essentials and the problems have “multiplied”.
“There is only water and some rudimentary food – we don’t have mattresses and beds,” said Athanasios Vyrinis.
Speaking to Open TV from an assembly point, the deputy mayor said people were using cardboard boxes to sleep in and people arriving in Rhodes had nowhere to stay.
ERT has reported that the areas that have been affected by the wildfires still have no power.
Greek authorities are urging locals to donate breakfast items such as croissants and fruit, as many tourists are complaining about the lack of a plan regarding food.
“It’s very stressful,” said John Miller, who has been evacuated, with his family, twice from his hotel.
The hotel they were at in Kiotari had multiple power cuts so they were being transferred to Plimmiri, he said.
“There is bedlam in Rhodes tonight,” said Mr Miller, from Kent.
He said the roads were gridlocked and the military was on its way.
Simon Wheatley had to flee his hotel, alongside his pregnant fiancé and three-year-old son and is still searching for alternative accommodation for the next few nights.
“I haven’t found a hotel for this evening,” he said, adding that the family needed accommodation until Tuesday, when they are due to leave.
He said tannoys across the hotel said “immediate evacuation” and urged people to take only essentials.
We packed everything we could into one suitcase and left two behind, he told the BBC.
Mr Wheatley, from Cheltenham, said his family was “one of the lucky ones” because they had a hire car, while others at the hotel had to wait for shuttle buses or taxis.
“People were there with wet t-shirts over their mouth trying to breathe more effectively because the air by then was unbearable.
“It was like a bad bonfire in November, you could not handle the smoke at all.”
The foreign office has advised travellers in Greece affected by wildfires to follow the guidance from emergency services and to call 112 if there is immediate danger.