Flights have been arranged to get hundreds of Britons out of Rhodes, as thousands continue to flee wildfires on the Greek island – and new evacuations were announced on Corfu.
Tourists and residents huddled in schools and shelters on Sunday in Rhodes, with many evacuated on private boats from beaches as flames menaced resorts and coastal villages.
Scores of others were forced to spend the weekend sleeping rough, on beaches, pool sun loungers or on the streets.
A total of approximately 19,000 people have been rescued from the island, in one of the largest evacuations in Greek history.
Greece’s Emergency Communications Service has also now published evacuation orders for some areas of Corfu after wildfires were also reported there.
People in the areas of Santa, Megoula, Porta, Palia, Perithia and Sinies on the island have been told to leave on Sunday evening.
How the wildfire chaos in Rhodes unfolded – amid new alerts on Corfu
Tour operators Jet2, TUI and Correndon have cancelled flights leaving for Rhodes in the next few days.
Travel agent Thomas Cook cancelled some upcoming holidays and is offering other customers full refunds should they wish to cancel their trips.
While Easyjet has said it is laying on two repatriation flights from the island on Monday, in addition to the nine flights they already operate between the Rhodes and the UK – providing 421 extra seats to get people out.
The airline also pledged to run another repatriation flight back to the UK on Tuesday and promised to keep the situation under review.
No rain forecast after historic evacuation
The flames have left trees black and skeletal and the roads around the island littered with dead animals and near burnt-out cars.
Six people were briefly treated at a hospital for respiratory problems.
A person who fell and broke a leg during a hotel evacuation and a pregnant woman were taken to hospital. The pregnant woman is in good condition, authorities said.
Temperatures are expected to drop below 40C on the island tomorrow but remain in the high 30s.
There is no rain forecast in the next week.
The fire brigade said 19,000 people were moved from homes and hotels, calling it the biggest safe transport of residents and tourists Greece has ever carried out.
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Evacuation ‘chaos’ amid ‘hotels on fire’
Speaking to Sky News at Rhodes Airport, tourist Tom Mitchell recounted how he and his friend Natalie Taylor were evacuated from their hotel.
He said: “We were at the hotel yesterday and there was lots of smoke. It got to one o’clock this morning and we had an evacuation notice come through on our phones to leave.
“It just felt like chaos really.”
Eventually, a coach arrived and took them to a school in the city.
He praised the locals for all the help offered to stranded tourists as he and Ms Taylor sat in the airport, waiting for their flight home.
Another tourist, Kevin Evans, said his wife and three young children – including a six-month-old baby – were evacuated twice on Saturday as the fire rapidly spread.
The family is now stranded in Rhodes Town without accommodation and “no information from the authorities”.
“We were originally in Kiotari in a villa but were moved to Gennadi,” he said.
“It got very crowded but we managed to get into a hotel in Gennadi with a room for the children and mums, while the rest of us slept in the lobby.
“As night fell, we could see the fire on the top of the hills in Kiotari.
“They said all the hotels were on fire.”
At about midnight, the fire started moving to their side of the hill, Mr Evans said, and alerts were going off again.
Another British family spent a night sleeping on the floor of a school after being evacuated from a wildfire on the Greek island of Rhodes.
‘Island is functioning very well’
Coastguard vessels and private boats carried more than 3,000 tourists from beaches on Saturday after the wildfires, which have burned for nearly a week, rekindled in the southeast of Rhodes.
Other parts of Greece’s third most populated island were not affected.
Olga Kefalogianni, Greece’s tourism minister, told Sky News “overall, the island is functioning very well”.
He praised locals for showing “solidarity” with tourists affected by the fires.
Nevertheless, areas popular with many tourists were badly hit.
Many people fled hotels when huge flames reached the seaside villages of Kiotari, Gennadi, Pefki, Lindos, Lardos and Kalathos.
Crowds gathered in streets under an orange sky while smoke hung in the air.
In Lindos, famed for an acropolis on a massive rock within medieval walls, a blaze charred the hillside and buildings.
Thanasis Virinis, a vice mayor of Rhodes, told Mega television on Sunday that between 4,000 and 5,000 people were in temporary accommodation, calling for donations of essentials such as mattresses and bedclothes.
Among the nationalities of tourists affected on Rhodes were French, Dutch and Germans, as well as Britons.
One hotelier said the island can receive 150,000 visitors at a time in peak season. The resident population of the island is around 125,000.
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Evacuee ‘lost everything’
British family spent night on floor
Foreign Office Rapid Deployment Team sent to the island
As crowds filled Rhodes airport, the Greek foreign ministry said it was setting up a helpdesk for people who had lost travel documents.
Tour operator Jet2 said five planes due to take more tourists to the island would instead fly empty and take people home on their scheduled flights.
Air France-KLM said its daily flight from Rhodes was operating as normal.
Ryanair said its flights to and from the island were unaffected by the fire.
TUI said it cancelled all outbound flights to Rhodes up to and including Tuesday. “Customers currently in Rhodes will return on their intended flight home,” it said in a statement.
More than 250 firefighters, assisted by 18 aircraft, set up firebreaks to shield a dense forest and more residential areas.
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A UK government spokesperson said: “We are actively monitoring the fires in Rhodes and are in close contact with local authorities.
“The FCDO has deployed a Rapid Deployment Team (RDT) of five FCDO staff and four British Red Cross responders to Rhodes to support British Nationals, whose safety is our top priority.
“They will be based at Rhodes International Airport to assist with travel documents and liaise with Greek authorities and travel operators on the ground.
“British nationals in Rhodes should contact their travel operator in the first instance for any queries regarding the rescheduling of flights and continue to check our updated gov.uk travel advice for information.”