A mum has revealed the horror she faced after being forced to evacuate her hotel just hours after she arrived as wildfires tear through the Greek island of Rhodes.
Mum-of-two Jodie, 32, had been travelling with husband Matt, 35, and their children. But after arriving at their hotel in Kiotari, the family were forced to run for their lives as they cradled their children before jumping on a boat and abandoning their suitcases on the beach.
They had only arrived at around 1am on Saturday at the Princess Andriana Resort and Spa but within a few hours, experienced a sudden power cut before “air raid sirens” sounded and they were told to “run to the sea”.
Talking to the MEN, Jodie said: “We ran to the beach, dragging our cases and the kids. The smoke was thick and black and the heat was immense. We left the cases after a few steps and the baby’s pram.
“Out of the smoke a boat then turned up. I had push my daughter through the bars on this boat and then my son. We just wanted our babies to get to safety.
“They let me on but were shouting it was for women and children only at first. Waiting for Matt nearly tipped me over the edge. We couldn’t breathe and we had towels over our mouths. My daughter was screaming ‘I don’t want to die’.”
The boat departed from the beach through thick clouds of smoke before arriving at Lardos Beach in 43C heat.
The family then managed to catch a bus to nearby Lindos before a taxi was able to take them to Faliraki and then on to Rhodos. Luckily, they had kept their passports with them when they abandoned their suitcases.
“We thought we were safe but then the sirens started again. The fire was literally coming over the hill towards us like some f***ing sea creature. I’ve not seen anything like it. We had to run,” Jodie added.
“We finally got a taxi to the airport and the driver tried desperately to find us a hotel for a few hours, to charge our phones and get the kids some sleep. We wanted out, and we managed to switch our flight and we landed in Manchester at 7am this morning (Sunday, July 23).
“People are traumatised. A woman was pushing her mum in a wheelchair and they’d lost her dad’s ashes which they’d taken to Rhodes to scatter. Another girl had family unable to get on the boats and phones weren’t charged so no idea if they were safe.
“The people of Rhodes are the heroes here. The boat guys, the guy handing out towels on the beach to protect my babies from the smoke, the free cold drinks when we got off the boat, the bus that stopped in Lardos, the taxi driver in Rhodos, Chris – our amazing taxi driver from the previous night, his local knowledge and reassuring voice notes were a game changer.”
The six-day blaze continued to rage on Sunday after the fire service warned more fires could break out with temperatures set to reach 45C.
Greek authorities said 19,000 people have been evacuated so far, with the Ministry of Climate Change and Civil Protection adding it was “the largest evacuation from a wildfire in the country”.
Police on Rhodes said 16,000 have been evacuated by land and 3,000 by sea from 12 villages and several hotels.
And on Sunday night, people in Corfu were evacuated as disastrous wildfires took hold of the island.
Greece’s Emergency Communications Service issued evacuation orders on Sunday evening (July 23) as the problems intensified.