Families were forced to curl up on the floors of Rhodes International Airport and sports halls for a second night running as they wait to be taken home, but with temperatures set to hit 45C today, officials have warned the dire situation could yet get worse.
With thousands of tourists caught up in hours of delays at the airport after fleeing the incoming inferno by feet, car and boat, Brits have also been told to evacuate almost 20 areas of Corfu after the resort-studded island became the second Greek holiday hotspot to be devastated by wildfires.
While the first relieved Brits were pictured arriving back at London Gatwick from Rhodes on Sunday afternoon, holidaymakers stuck on the island have described the scenes at the airport as ‘absolute pandemonium’ as they try to escape the raging inferno.
Stranded families have told MailOnline how they were left ‘fighting for our lives’ to try and get onto boats as desperate tourists shoved children out of the way to to force themselves on board.
Jet2 and TUI were sending flights to bring Brits home after around 10 per cent of hotels were forced to shut as vicious fires scorched the island. Before and after satellite photos show the shocking effects the wildfires have had on the island.
Under red skies on Rhodes, the Greek army helped thousands of locals and holidaymakers, mainly Britons, by finding them places to sleep in schools, stadiums and leisure centres.
One family were forced to sleep in a stadium in just their swimwear after abandoning their luggage at the Olive Garden Resort in Lardos, Rhodes. Claire McNally, whose family were initially told to stay put by hotel staff despite receiving an emergency evacuation text, told The Mirror: ‘As you can imagine it’s been stressful and we’re very hot and tired, with no change of clothes, still wearing only bikinis and shorts.’
Many tourists had no food or water and were forced to find makeshift beds on cardboard boxes, sun loungers and even baggage carousels. Deputy mayor of Rhodes Athansios Bryinis said: ‘There is only water and some rudimentary food. We don’t have mattresses and beds.’
Government officials are said to have held emergency meetings on Sunday as they sent in a response team to help Brits out in Rhodes. Winds of up to 35mph have made it even harder for firefighters to put out the destructive blazes. With temperatures expected to hit 45C, the Ministry for Civil Protection warned of a very high risk of wildfires in almost half of Greece.
Distressed holidaymakers have been pictured anxiously staring up at the departures board as they attempt to flee the ‘apocalyptic’ island.
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 who have been pictured trying 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 to Rhodes to bring more Brits back to London Gatwick today. The airline will also send another plane on Tuesday, while Ryanair has not yet announced any cancellations.
Conor Cullen, 45, said he, his wife Danielle, 41, and their two daughters, aged 11 and 13, have been left to ‘fend for themselves’. The frustrated family, who live near Belfast, were evacuated from the Princess Beach Hotel in Kiotari at 4pm on Saturday and taken to Gennadi where they joined thousands in waiting for rescue boats on the beach.
Mr Cullen, who works in business intelligence, told MailOnline: ‘When we made the decision to move Gennadi that was the big moment in the situation last night we had to take the bull by the horns. No one was coming to save us. We had to fend for ourselves.’
His wife Danielle, a hairdresser, added: ‘When you’re watching a movie and you just think that’s never gonna happen. Last night showed these things happen and we really were fighting for our lives trying to get on the boat.’
Mr Cullen said the situation at the beach was ‘like something out a movie’. He added: ‘You might assume with young kids that people were more accepting but they weren’t. Everyone had their own situation and tried to force themselves on.