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‘You should leave the plane before we take off, travelling to Rhodes is a terrible idea’: EasyJet pilot issues stern warning to Brits STILL flying out to island as thousands of exhausted holidaymakers arrive back in Gatwick and slam ‘chaotic’ evacuation
- Some 37 passengers, including a young boy, were about to fly to burning Rhodes
- Eight passengers, including young boy who was in tears, decided to disembark
- Brits who have managed to flee the scorched island have shared survival tales
An easyJet pilot issued a stern warning to Brits still flying out to the wildfire-ravaged island of Rhodes – as thousands of exhausted holidaymakers arrived back in Gatwick and slammed the ‘chaotic’ evacuation.
Some 37 passengers, including a young boy, attempted to fly out of Gatwick to Rhodes today despite terrifying fires scorching the Greek island, sparking the country’s biggest evacuation in history.
But in the final moments before take-off, the pilot issued a stark warning, telling passengers on board the 180-seat capacity aircraft that travelling to the resort island was a ‘terrible idea’.
Journalist Gwyn Loader, who was on the flight to Rhodes to report for BBC Wales’ Welsh-language news programme Newyddion, said that eight passengers chose to listen to the advice and disembark, including the young boy who was in tears.
It comes as Brits were forced to flee their burning hotels, sleep on makeshift beds in airports, schools and stadiums, before trying to catch flights home. Those lucky enough to escape have spoken of the ‘chaos’ of their repatriation to the UK after holidays from hell.
The pilot told passengers over the Tannoy before take-off: ‘Travelling to Rhodes for a holiday at the moment is a terrible idea.’
Brits have been warned not to travel to the burning island of Rhodes (pictured) – as an easyJet pilot even pleaded with passengers to disembark a flight there
An evacuation centre in Rhodes. Tourists were forced to sleep on the floor as they tried to flee
Rhodes burns for a seventh day. A weeklong wildfire on the Greek resort island has sparked mass evacuations with thousand of Brits abroad – but some are still attempting to get there
This image provided by Maxar Technologies, shows an active wildfire near Gennadi on the island of Rhodes, Greece, Monday July 24, 2023
Thousands of exhuasted holidaymakers arrived back in Gatwick and slammed the ‘chaotic’ evacuation’ including Leigh and Charlotte Buckwell, pictured with their children Izabella, four, and Henry, two
They added: ‘As far as I’m concerned, this flight is being operated on an emergency basis. Return flights are now being managed by the military. If you want to get off flight, you are welcome to do so.
READ MORE: Now Tui cancels ALL flights to Rhodes up to Friday as wildfires continue to ravage the Greek island
‘I don’t know in what capacity you are travelling, but if you are travelling for leisure, my sincere recommendation is it’s a bad idea.’
It comes as Tui has cancelled all flights to Rhodes up to Friday as wildfires continue to engulf the Greek island, forcing 19,000 to leave their homes.
The UK Government said as many 10,000 British nationals are on the island, which is one of Greece’s most popular holiday destinations.
Several airlines, including easyJet and package operator Tui, have sent planes to Rhodes to evacuate tourists forced from hotels by the wildfire. Blazes in Rhodes are still ‘out of control’ according to the island’s deputy mayor, while last night’s fires in Corfu – some 670 miles away – are largely under control.
But as some Brits still make their way to Rhodes, those who have made it home have revealed their survival tales.
Leigh and Charlotte Buckwell – along with their children Izabella, four, and Henry, two – watched on in growing horror as the skies above the island’s idyllic beaches turned yellow and ash fell into their all-inclusive food and drink.
Leigh and Charlotte Buckwell watched on in growing horror as the skies above the island’s idyllic beaches turned yellow and ash fell into their all-inclusive food and drink
The family were staying at the five-star Mitsis hotel in Kiotari, on the island’s south-eastern coast, and were enjoying their ten-day break before receiving a worrying warning about evacuations in the next town
When coaches were later organised to take them to another hotel, the family witnessed ‘fights’ breaking out over who would be first on
The family were staying at the five-star Mitsis hotel in Kiotari, on the island’s south-eastern coast, and were enjoying their 10-day break before receiving a worrying warning about evacuations in the next town.
READ MORE: Brit tales of survival from Rhodes: Honeymooners stranded, family told to run into the sea and leave behind their luggage and baby pram and holidaymakers flee to France
When coaches were later organised to take them to another hotel, the family witnessed ‘fights’ breaking out over who would be first on.
The family, from who regularly holiday in Greece, said they had never witnessed anything quite like the disturbing scenes they’d seen in Rhodes on their latest trip.
‘It was pretty much carnage to be honest,’ 42-year-old Mr Buckwell said, his son Henry excitedly adding: ‘We had to go to the beach! The sky was yellow!’
Th technical sales manager continued: ‘The fire was burning for five days before anyone started taking it seriously.
‘I think it went seven miles in a couple of hours because of the wind.’
Mrs Buckwell, a part-time cleaner, added: ‘Saturday morning we thought it was a bit dodgy.
‘I ran back to get the passports and a few valuables, and the siren was going off for us to evacuate. The hotel were fantastic. TUI were terrible, apparently.’
The family, from Rochester in Kent, explained that they were evacuated to another Mitsis hotel further up the coast in Faliraki, after getting a lift in a pickup truck to an evacuation point.
‘We slept on the floor of the bar area,’ 39-year-old Mrs Buckwell said.
‘We got the second coach… People were forcing themselves on the bus, but we queued for one. I was getting a bit emotional on the way home.
‘The Greeks have been amazing. The kids were fine, but they had to walk a fair bit.
‘When I came back last night to get the suitcases, I saw one of the posh beach bars had completely burned down.’
‘The locals were fantastic,’ Mr Buckwell agreed. ‘But there wasn’t much support for them.
Martin Bowery with his wife Victoria and son Hayden, arriving at Gatwick airport from Rhodes
Terrified British families who have escaped fire-ravaged Rhodes have described the scenes of panic and chaos during their desperate evacuation. Pictured: Women embrace each other at Gatwick airport on Monday
Holidaymaker Peter Szatkowski, 39, and his family arrive at Gatwick Airport after being moved to four different hotels for safety and evacuated off the Greek island of Rhodes as wildfires continue to spread and thousands are forced to flee
Ben White shows a photo of the fires on his phone as holidaymakers arrive at the Gatwick Airport after being evacuated off the Greek island of Rhodes
Holidaymakers have started to arrive back at Gatwick after succesfully evacuating the scorched island of Rhodes following terrifying wildfires
Hannah Dolman and Dominic Doggett arrive on a flight from Rhodes in Greece into Gatwick Airport. They had to evacuate a wedding party
‘It was just crazy. People were on the back of lorries, trucks and vans to get to the evacuation points.
‘I was one of the lucky ones who got the evacuation message.’
Mr Buckwell explained that the first evacuation message popped up on his phone on Saturday, for the next town to theirs.
READ MORE: Hell march on inferno island: How terrified Brits were forced to walk up to eight MILES with their luggage and children to escape Rhodes wildfires in ‘Dunkirk-style’ rescue
‘It was scary at the start,’ he said. ‘There were people sleeping outside our hotel, just on the grass.’
The couple admitted that though they had witnessed wildfires in Greece before, this was the worst they had ever experienced.
‘We go to Greece pretty frequently,’ Mrs Buckley said. ‘I have seen the fires before. Last time, about four years ago, we had to leave because the skies got too smoky.’
‘But it had never been as bad as this time, to be honest,’ Mr Buckwell added. Half of our hotel was caught in the fires.’
On the moment they knew the fires were something more serious than they had first considered, Mr Buckley explained: ‘Saturday we had lunch about 12 o’clock.
‘There was ash dropping all over, and even on Friday night as well. We went to the beach anyway, then it kind of went from, ‘How serious is this?’ to really serious.
‘We had to go to a place called Gennadi – that’s where the Atlantic TUI hotel was – and we went in a pickup truck to a school playground.
‘Mitsis arranged coaches to take us to Faliraki, where they’ve got another hotel.’
Mrs Buckwell said she saw people ‘fighting’ to board the coaches, after being told that families with young children should be prioritised.
A local resident tries to extinguish a fire, near the seaside resort of Lindos, on the Aegean Sea island of Rhodes, southeastern Greece
German tourists take water from a swimming pool of a hotel as they try to extinguish a fire near the seaside resort of Lindos
A fire burns trees and low vegetation in the Kiotari area of Rhodes, Greece, 24 July 2023
A man uses towel over his face as he tries to extinguish a fire, near the seaside resort of Lindos
A Turkish firefighting plane flies over a wildfire burning on the island of Rhodes, Greece, July 24, 2023
‘People were fighting to get on the buses,’ she said. ‘There were families and small children there.
‘It wasn’t the English fighting, to be fair. It was the Germans, French, Italians… lots of people without kids were just pushing past us.
‘We were just lucky we were with a good hotel, because if we hadn’t been, I think we would have been screwed.’
The family had to rush onto a bus to collect their car, but not before Mr Buckwell showed shocking photos of a luminous red sky over a beach, and videos of flames engulfing entire forests.
Some other families who had been repatriated looked dishevelled as they arrived at Gatwick this evening, with one man saying: ‘We have come back from Rhodes, but to be honest we just want to get home.’
Ari, an Iraqi national, said he and his partner had to endure three days at their hotel with no air conditioning or cold drinks due to the power being cut out.
The 41-year-old, who works in Tesco, said: ‘We had no electricity in our hotel for three days; no cold drinks and no air-conditioning in that heat… for three days it was like that.
‘We had to use our phone lights to go down the corridor at night.
‘We saw lots of smoke, but we didn’t see the fires.’
Tourists had to find places to sleep on the floor at evacuation centres in Rhodes as they waited for flights home
A family curl up together as they wait at Rhodes Airport for a flight home following a week of fires
A woman sleeps on the baggage carrousel at Rhodes International Airport as she waits for a flight
Meanwhile, Arni and her husband, who had just arrived back into London from Corfu, said the wildfires there had seen them wake this morning to find their hotel ‘covered’ in ashes.
‘There were fires in Corfu as well,’ she said.
‘The hotel next to us was evacuated, and when we woke up this morning, all of the hotel and the swimming pool was covered with ash.
‘We could see the fires raging on the hill.’
A couple from Norwich were forced to evacuate from a wedding party they were guests at after a power cut on Saturday. ‘The wedding was due to finish at 2am but it finished three hours early,’ he said.
Dominic Doggett, 30, and his fiancee Hannah Dolman, 28, had to stay on the floor of an office in a hotel after the wedding do came to an ‘abrupt end’.
After arriving at Gatwick Airport, Mr Doggett said: ‘Mid-afternoon at the wedding we got a notification that said some areas were being evacuated.
‘With it being a wedding we tried to keep the bride and groom unaware and stay as happy as possible. ‘Later in the evening… we got a further notification on our phones from the alert system to say our area was also being evacuated. The music cut and the lights came on and the staff said we needed to leave.’
Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis saidthe country was ‘at war’ with the fires during a debate in parliament.
‘Over the coming days and weeks, we must remain on constant alert.’
Help continued to arrive from the European Union and elsewhere on Monday, with firefighting planes from neighbouring Turkey joining the effort in Rhodes, where 10 water-dropping planes and 10 helicopters buzzed over flames up to five metres (16ft) tall despite low visibility.
‘The risk of fire will be extreme in several areas of Greece today,’ fire service spokesperson Vassilis Vathrakogiannis said a day after temperatures on the southern Greek mainland soared as high as 45C.
A relative respite from the heat on Monday, with highs of 38C forecast, is to be followed by yet more high temperatures starting on Tuesday.
However, it should get significantly cooler on Thursday, with temperatures in the low to mid-30s Celsius, the country’s Meteorological Service said.
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