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Grandmother who thought she was going to die among angry tourists stranded in Rhodes

On the floor of Rhodes airport, the exhausted sleep.

People who fled their hotels as the flames approached.

Some running for their lives.

In one corner, we meet Corina, a tourist from Denmark, with her husband Peter and daughter Mathilde.


They lie in a little pile, salt stains covering their clothes.

Weather – latest: New evacuations on Corfu in at least 18 areas

Corina explains they had been staying in Kiotari, when they were told the wildfires were coming in their direction and it was time to leave.

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Sea evacuations in Corfu

For 11km (6.8 miles) they walked in scorching temperatures, but every time they thought they were safe, they were told the flames were near again.

Corina a tourist from Denmark in Rhodes
Corina, a tourist from Denmark, who feared for her life in Rhodes

In the end, their only option was to board a boat waiting off the shore and sail to the north of the island.

Now the adrenaline has worn off, the shock is beginning to sink in.

Smoke rises from a wildfire on the island of Rhodes. Pic: Ted G Bailos via Reuters
Pic: Ted G Bailos via Reuters

“I was afraid not to see my oldest child at home and my grandson again,” Corina says, beginning to cry.

“You thought you were going to die?” I ask.

“Yes, the fire was just behind us. It was awful,” she replies.

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Inside a shelter for evacuees in Rhodes

She adds: “We got evacuated yesterday at the hotel and were sent down to the beach. We walked 11km and again were sent to the beach where we didn’t know what to do.

“And then the military came and picked us up and we were taken further south.

“Later, the police boat came and another boat came, too, so we got evacuated.”

Read more:
Flights to evacuate hundreds of Britons from Rhodes
What rights do holidaymakers have?
How the heatwave will impact your holiday

Even when they were on the water it was frightening, Corina said.

“The fire was moving along with us. The hotel had burned down.

“That is why we are sitting here in what we’ve got with us,” she said.

After getting on a boat at 2.30am, they did not arrive in Rhodes Town until 6am.

Evacuations in Rhodes
Evacuations in Rhodes

Relief, exhaustion, fear and anger as tourists sleep on floors

Her story is a common one as we make our way around the airport speaking to holidaymakers.

It’s an emotionally charged atmosphere; a mix of relief, exhaustion, fear at what may have been, and anger.

And as the hours tick by, anger is the feeling which is beginning to dominate.

Every tourist we spoke to was asking the same question: “Where is my holiday company?”

Most say while the residents of Rhodes have opened their homes and communities to support them, they feel the tour companies they paid thousands to are missing in action.

At most, they have sent local representatives armed with scant answers to face the music.

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Why is Rhodes on fire?

They’re the “sacrificial lambs”, one man from Birmingham told me.

So now hundreds sleep on the floors of schools, sports centres and the airport waiting for news.

While they are deeply frustrated, they are aware that ultimately, they are the lucky ones – they can leave.

The residents of Rhodes who have lost homes and businesses to these fires are the ones who will be left counting the cost of climate change.


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