Dutch holiday firms have begun repatriating tourists from the Greek island of Rhodes which has been hit by massive wildfires.
The first flight from the popular island arrived back at Schiphol airport on Sunday night, bringing home people whose holidays had ended and some who were being evacuated.
TUI, Corendon, Sunweb, Prijsvrij, and D-reizen said on Sunday they would stop taking tourists to Rhodes until Tuesday at least because of the situation on the island.
Dozens of hotels and resorts have been engulfed by the fires, and hundreds of tourists have been forced to flee, some leaving their possessions behind, the Telegraaf said on Monday. At least 19,000 locals and tourists had been evacuated by Monday morning, local officials said.
Some ended up sleeping outdoors, in sports halls and hotel lobbies because there was nowhere else for them to go. Others have flocked to the airport, hoping for a flight home.
Dutch tourist Ingrid ten Hove told the Telegraaf that the hotel she booked had been “destroyed”. “We spent three hours on Saturday afternoon stumbling along in the scorching heat in an endless queue of evacuees before we got any help,” she said. “One hotel we passed gave us water. We were then taken by military vehicles further down the road. People were tired and scared.”
Chavon Roovers from Velserbroek told the paper it had taken her 17 hours to escape from the sea of flames and reach the north. ‘There was panic among people who were getting away and locals,” she said. “Some people were fighting for water… it was terrible.”
The travel industry calamity fund said it had decided the forest fires on Rhodes should be officially classified as a calamity from Saturday onwards, clearing the way for compensation for holidaymakers who were caught up in the blaze.
By Monday, fires had also broken out in Corfu and several other islands.
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