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Hundreds arrive back in UK after Rhodes wildfires – BBC News

  • By Rachel Russell
  • BBC News

Image caption,

Women embrace as holidaymakers fleeing Greek wildfires arrive at Gatwick Airport

Hundreds of holidaymakers are arriving back in the UK on repatriation flights from Rhodes as wildfires continue to grip the Greek island.

Up to 10,000 Britons are believed to be staying on the island, with flights home continuing throughout the week.

EasyJet and Tui have cancelled outbound package holidays to Rhodes until Saturday and Friday respectively.

Tourists have had to flee hotels and sleep outside as fires spread towards resorts on the eastern coast.

The fires have destroyed locals’ homes and businesses in some areas.

Tour operators and airlines have been sending repatriation flights to bring people back to the UK over the last couple of days as holidaymakers have been left with no choice but to evacuate their accommodation and sleep in schools, airports and sports centres.

Video caption,

Azadeh Moshiri says some people have been sleeping at the airport.

Tourists have been arriving back into UK airports including Gatwick, Heathrow, Stansted, Birmingham and Bristol.

Tui operated three repatriation flights on Sunday, while a fourth brought people to the UK from Rhodes on Monday, and another was scheduled for Tuesday morning.

EasyJet said it had operated two flights totalling 421 seats on Monday and a third would take place on Tuesday, along with nine scheduled flights to the Greek island.

Jet2 added four repatriation flights had been scheduled for Monday night after one landed at Leeds Bradford Airport on Sunday evening.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak advised people to keep in touch with tour operators or hotels if they were planning to travel to areas affected by wildfires.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “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.”

The Foreign Office has not advised against going to Rhodes, but added that it had sent six Foreign Office staff members and four British Red Cross responders to Rhodes International Airport to work with Greek authorities and travel operators.

Emma Brennan, from the Association of British Travel Agents – the travel association trade body, urged anyone planning to travel to Rhodes in the coming days to contact their travel provider to check if flights are still happening.

“Some airlines are still operating flights, so it might be that if you’re booked on one of those flights your holidays may be able to still go ahead,” she told BBC Breakfast.

She added that Rhodes is a large island, and that there are some parts of it that are “still fully functioning and people are still able to travel and enjoy a holiday there”.

Ms Brennan also urged anyone still in an evacuation centre to get in touch with their travel provider.

Video caption,

A Cardiff family describe evacuating their hotel while on holiday in Rhodes.

Claire and Paul Jones, both 36, from Leicestershire, were moved on Saturday by coach from the Village Rhodes Beach Resort near Lardos.

“It was really quite traumatic driving to where we went because you could see everyone fleeing their hotels, and people were walking along the beaches, walking along the roads, and they had babies and small children,” Mrs Jones told the PA news agency.

Daniel and Luna Rolfe’s honeymoon over the weekend was cut short when they were taken straight from the airport to an evacuation centre after finding out their accommodation in the Lindos area of Rhodes had been evacuated because of thick smoke.

Mr Rolfe, 25, told BBC News: “It was packed. I couldn’t tell you how many people were there. We walked past quite a few rooms and they were all packed.”

The Glaswegian couple eventually managed to find an Airbnb for the night on Sunday, but had to leave it on Monday as it was fully booked.

Greece has seen temperatures exceeding 40C (104F) across the country in recent weeks, which has resulted in fires burning for nearly a week in some areas.

Rhodes has been affected by wildfires for a week because of strong winds, with roughly 19,000 people being evacuated so far.

Elsewhere, around 2,500 people were evacuated from Corfu, some 1,027km (670 miles) miles away, a fire department spokesman told AFP news agency.

Although the cause of the fires is unknown, the extreme temperatures, dry conditions and strong winds across Greece have caused their spread.

Image caption,

Officials estimate 19,000 have been evacuated by land and sea with more people due to be evacuated from three villages – Pefki, Lindos, Kalathos

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