Brits caught up in hours of delays at packed Rhodes airport

Get us out of this hell!: Brits caught up in hours of delays at packed Rhodes airport after fleeing raging wildfires by feet, car and boat as government announces it will send a response team to island – but easyJet won’t repatriate until tomorrow

  • Videos have emerged of thousands of tourists fleeing resorts as wildfires rip through Greek island of Rhodes
  • The British Government has sent in a response team as tourists pack out Rhodes International Airport to flee 
  • Are you caught in the wildfires on Rhodes? E-mail: [email protected]

British families trapped on Rhodes have been caught up in hours of delays at the island’s airport after fleeing raging wildfires by feet, car and boat as the Government announces it will send a response team in – but easyJet won’t repatriate until tomorrow.

Holidaymakers have described the scenes at the airport as ‘absolute pandemonium’ as they try to escape the terrifying infernos on the Greek island which have triggered the country’s largest disaster evacuation in history. 

Distressed tourists, including young children, have been pictured lying on the floor at Rhodes International Airport, while others were seen anxiously staring up at the departures board as they desperately attempt to flee the island. Brits described the airport as ‘absolute pandemonium’

The Government said on Sunday afternoon it was ‘actively monitoring the fires in Rhodes’ and is in close contact with the local authorities. The Foreign Office has deployed a Rapid Deployment Team of five staff and four British Red Cross responders to help British nationals at the airport.

After rival airlines TUI and Jet2 cancelled flights to the island, easyJet announced two repatriation flights will be sent in to bring Brits back to London Gatwick but not until tomorrow. The airline will also send another plane on Tuesday, while Ryanair has not yet announced any cancellations.

Lowri Jones, from Crymych, Pembrokeshire, Wales, described scenes of ‘chaos’ at the airport after arriving last night. She told The Independent:  ‘It was absolute pandemonium at the airport, with long queues of people trying to find out what coach they were.’

Meanwhile newlywed Andrew Brittan, 27, and his wife Emily, travelled from the East Midlands to Rhodes for their honeymoon yesterday, unaware that it would become a holiday from hell. 

‘The first night of my honeymoon was spent on a mattress outside,’ he told MailOnline from a refuge centre where generous locals have been donating mattresses to terrified tourists.

While they have been stuck in the baking heat with ‘hundreds’ of other tourists at one makeshift evacuation centre, other Brits have been desperately trying to escape the fire-ravaged island. 

Mother Abi James 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. 

Are you caught in the fires on Rhodes? E-mail: [email protected]

British families trapped on Rhodes have been caught up in hours of delays at the island’s airport after fleeing raging wildfires

A tourist from Wales waits for departing planes at the airport, after being evacuated following a wildfire on the island of Rhodes

Smoke billows into the skies as Rhodes faces terrifying wildfires amid the blistering heatwave across Europe, forcing mass evacuations

Anxious tourists wait for more information by staring up at the departure boards at Rhodes International Airport amid the chaotic scenes

Abi James, 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 James’ son Jasper (left) and her friend’s son Finley (right) sleeping on the floor of a hotel reception last night

Tourists spread out across the floor as they wait in the airport’s departure halls as evacuations are carried out from Rhodes

Families have been forced to flee the raging wildfires as they now desperately attempt to get home from the Greek island

Adnan, a tourist from Germany waits for departing planes at the airport, after being evacuated following a wildfire on the island of Rhodes, Greece

Tourists wait for departing planes at the airport, after being evacuated following a wildfire on the island of Rhodes

Families try to sleep at Rhodes International Airport as they wait to be evacuated from the island amid the raging wildfires

British father Nick Stafford, 40, his wife Vicki, also 40, and their two children, aged seven and 11, described the situation as ‘utter chaos’ after they were forced to flee their £350 a night hotel. He said coaches were only picking up hotel workers and people who had easyJet packages, leaving them no choice but to walk to the next hotel in 33 degrees heat at 11pm.

After having to rely on their phone torches with minimal battery after a power cut plunged the island into darkness, Mr Stafford told The Mirror: ‘It was pretty apocalyptic and hard work with the kids. Looking ahead was completely dark on the road, but behind us, the full horizon was lit up as far as you could see.’

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. 

Now TUI says it has cancelled all flights to the island until Wednesday while Jet2 has cancelled five, with empty planes still travelling to the island to get tourists home. 

As the dire situation has shown no sign of improving, many are still trapped, with the Greek authorities warning things could become even worse.

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 travel advice for information.’

Among holidaymakers trapped in the disaster is 26-year-old Ms James, 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.

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. 

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. 

She has shared dramatic footage showing her family being driven away by one Rhodes resident as the inferno closed in.

Newlywed Andrew Brittan, 27, and his wife Emily, spent the first night of their honeymoon last night on a mattress outside a makeshift refuge centre. They were unable to go to their hotel after arriving in Rhodes as it had already been evacuated

Pictures from inside one evacuation centre, thought to be an old school, show cramped conditions and unhygienic facilities

An almost empty flight to Rhodes

The families, along with dozens of others, say they were told to stay put, but they decided to flee on foot

Smoke rises into the sky as the fire heads towards the Princess Sun Hotel where Abi and her family were staying on Saturday

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)

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

Brits who were flown in to Rhodes yesterday have been crammed into an evacuation centre after their hotel was evacuated

Smoke rises into the sky as the fire heads towards the Princess Sun Hotel where Abi and her family were staying on Saturday

A satellite image shows the devastation caused by the wildfires on the charred Greek island

Earlier, Ms James said 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.

Will Rhodes tourists get compensation? 

Consumer charity Which? has said it it would be ‘unconscionable’ for airlines not to refund tourists who decide against flying to fire-ravaged Rhodes. 

The comments by Which? Travel editor Rory Boland came after easyJet confirmed it was operating flights to the Greek island as normal, while fellow travel firms Jet2 and Tui suspended their trips and refunded their customers. 

He encouraged more airlines to be ‘flexible’ should customers decide not to travel due to the six-day blaze. 

Mr Boland said: ‘It’s likely that those who are due to go to Rhodes now won’t want to go, and given the emergency operations that are taking place on the island, local authorities could probably do without more tourists arriving. 

‘While there is no official Foreign Office advice against travel to Rhodes, it would be unconscionable for holiday companies to cash in on travellers’ sensible decision not to travel by not refunding or rebooking them.’ 

Meanwhile, an expert warned that tourists whose holidays are disrupted by the blaze or those who choose not to travel are ‘unlikely’ to be covered by their travel insurance. 

Louise Clark, policy advisor at the Association of British Insurers, said: ‘Travel insurance is primarily to protect you against what can be incredibly high costs of needing emergency medical treatment overseas, but is unlikely to provide cover if you’re unable to go outside on your holiday because of a wildfire.

‘The primary purpose of travel insurance is to cover the costs of emergency medical treatments or repatriation should the worst happen, which can run into the tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds. 

‘It can cover you if you need to cancel or cut short your holiday but it’s likely this will only be under limited circumstances, for example if you or a close family member fall ill, not because of a disinclination to travel.’ 

Ms Clark added that some insurers provide ‘add-ons’ available to customers at the time they buy their policy which do protect against natural disasters. 

Source: PA 

‘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 James 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.’

The group then moved to the Atrium Prestige Hotel with ‘thousands of people’, but Ms James claims they 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 James 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.

They have since made it to the airport but said there was no representative from their tour company there and they are still struggling to get out.

Speaking on Sunday morning, before the families managed to get a lift to the airport from two locals, Ms James said: ‘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.’

Before flights into Rhodes were cancelled by Jet2 and TUI other families were flown in as recently as last night and this morning.

In an update on Sunday afternoon easyJet said: ‘We know the situation for many currently in Rhodes is very difficult so we are doing all we can to help customers and provide assistance.

‘EasyJet will be operating two repatriation flights tomorrow from Rhodes to Gatwick using an A320 and an A321 aircraft totalling 421 additional seats.

People are sleeping on the floor in the airport and at evacuation centres as they flee the fires on Rhodes 

Tourists play cards as they wait in the airport’s departure hall as evacuations are underway due to wildfires, on the Greek island of Rhodes

Tourists are sheltered in a sports hall after being evacuated following a wildfire on the island of Rhodes, Greece

Helen Tonks, from Cheshire, said that her family did not even make it to their hotel, which had already been evacuated, and have instead taken refuge at a school

Brits crammed in a hotel away from the fires have been forced to sleep on sun lounger cushions outside as they flee the fires

Burnt out cars and homes have been pictured as wildfires sweep Rhodes. Above: Damage done by the wildfires in Kiotari village on the island

Charred plants on white sandy beaches on Rhodes, which make the island a popular tourist destination for British travellers

‘This is in addition to the nine flights we already have operating between Rhodes and the UK.

‘We will also operate a further repatriation flight on Tuesday and continue to keep under review if additional repatriation flights are needed.’ 

Among them was new couple Mr and Mrs Brittan, who flew with TUI and spent £1,000 each on their honeymoon to Finas Hotel and Apartments.

Abi James, pictured, says her family was forced to walk five miles in 42 degree heat to avoid the flames

Mr Brittan told MailOnline that when they boarded the flight out of East Midlands airport last night, ‘There was an announcement on the plane about wildfires.’ 

‘TUI thought all the hotels were fine and we would have a good holiday,’ he said.

‘We arrive and got sent onto a bus being told we would go to our hotel. Instead we were driven to an evacuation camp.

‘We then had to line up and get registered. We were told to go into the building but it was so cramped that we decided to camp outside with some friends we made from Scotland.

‘I’m on 20 minutes sleep and covered in bites as the bed was covered with ants!’

Mr Brittan said that he and his wife, along with the ‘hundreds’ of others camped out there, will ‘have to spend another night and then hopefully tomorrow be put into a different hotel’. 

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

Helen Tonks, from Cheshire, said that her family set off for their dream holiday last night, a stay at the five-star all-inclusive Gennadi Grand Resort, but arrived to chaos.

It was set to be the first holiday the family, which includes Helen, her husband and their three daughters aged 15, 21 and 22, had been on in four years due to Covid and work. 

The dream trip had set the family back £18,000 – but they never even made it to their hotel.

‘The hotel was already closed and people evacuated before our flight took off last night,’ Helen said. 

Twitter user John Hughes took a video of the chaotic scenes as the wildfire rages on the island

‘It is one thing to be here already and get caught up in it, it is a different thing entirely, negligence effectively, to bring more tourists to the area.’

The family arrived in Rhodes at around 10.10pm last night. ‘Half the island is on fire,’ said Helen.

They have taken refuge in school, opposite a large sports centre which is also filled with tourists fleeing from the flames.

‘When we got to the school it was already full of people. There are hundreds here.’

She said she wishes the family had never got on their flight, which was delayed, she thinks due to the risks. ‘We think we heard them say the delay was because they were deciding whether or not it was safe for us to travel.’

‘We would obviously not have come if we’d known, but no one told us,’ she said.

Tourists who want to leave the island are desperately making their way to its airport, with empty flights being sent in to get Brits out

Tourists are sheltered in a stadium after being evacuated following a wildfire on the island of Rhodes

Helen said the generosity of locals has been ‘humbling’ and that they have been bringing those trapped at the evacuation point water, boxes of fruit, and even cushions to make their stay more comfortable. 

Another tourist who was evacuated from Lindos last night hailed the ‘unbelievable hospitality and kindness’ of locals in Greece. Matthew Ward tweeted: ‘Evacuated from #Lindos last night — slept at a school staffed by local volunteers who brought us food, water, mattresses, then helped to find us a room and gave us a lift into #Rhodes town. Unbelievable hospitality and kindness.’

Debbie Antione, the mother of another holidaymaker, is desperately 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. 

Local people have also been evacuated from their homes on Rhodes and have taken refuge in public buildings

Forest fires have made their way into villages on Rhodes, including Kiotari, with damage done by the flames pictured here

A firefighter tries to put out a wildfire in Kiotari village, on Rhodes island, Greece – with what looks like just a garden hose

‘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.’

On Saturday, 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 MailOnline: ‘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.

Three coastguard boats were leading more than 20 vessels in an emergency evacuation effort to rescue people from Rhodes

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.

‘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 yesterday: ‘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’

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.

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

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 on Saturday.

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.

TUI said in a statement on Sunday: 

‘We’re continuing to closely monitor the wildfires in Rhodes which have led to the evacuation of a number of hotels in the South of the island.

‘We appreciate how distressing and difficult it is for customers who have been evacuated and ask they follow the advice of the local authorities who are managing tourist movements in impacted areas.

‘Our resort teams are doing everything they can to support customers, working closely with the relevant authorities.

‘We have cancelled all outbound flights to Rhodes up to and including Tuesday, and passengers due to travel on these flights will receive full refunds.

‘Passengers due to travel on Wednesday will be offered a fee free amend to another holiday or the option to cancel for a full refund. Those customers currently in Rhodes will return on their intended flight home.

‘The safety and well-being of our customers and teams remains our top priority.’

Are you caught in the fires on Rhodes? E-mail: [email protected] 

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