Planes sent to collect stranded Britons

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Planes are being sent to Rhodes to collect British tourists stranded after being evacuated after wildfires.

EasyJet is operating two repatriation flights on Monday, and one on Tuesday, and holiday firm Jet2 is sending planes to bring its customers back.

People forced to leave hotels over the weekend have been sleeping at the airport, as well as in sports halls, conference centres and on the street.

One man arriving back in the UK overnight called the situation “scary”.

Jack Askin, who landed at East Midlands airport on a scheduled Ryanair flight, told the BBC “it was really bad – we got out on Saturday night and it was carnage at the airport”.

But he added he was glad to be “safe now”.

It comes as areas of Corfu are also being evacuated as it grapples with wildfires.

The Foreign Office says a five-strong rapid deployment team is now in Rhodes, along with four Red Cross workers, to assist British nationals and support travel operators.

It has advised those affected by wildfires to follow emergency service guidance and to call 112 if there is immediate danger.

Meanwhile, British holidaymakers have described being stuck in a nightmare for yet another night.

Many had to abandon their belongings and flee on foot in extreme heat as fires spread from the centre of the Greek island towards its eastern coast, where many resort hotels are situated.

Some tourists ended up in other parts of the island, but with hotels at capacity, others have had to sleep on mattresses in emergency and makeshift accommodation.

sports hall

Tourists have sheltered in stadiums and schools after being evacuated from the path of wildfires

Connie Woods, 18, from Newry, Northern Ireland, was sheltering in a school for a second night on Sunday after being evacuated from the Pefki Island hotel.

Ms Woods said there were already hundreds staying at the school, with more arriving. “It’s getting quite crowded,” she said.

“So many young children, families with no luggage, newborn babies. It’s awful.”

Devastation left after wildfires in Rhodes

Wind coupled with very dry conditions and high temperatures meant wildfires spread across the island on Saturday

Greece’s fire service has warned the situation could worsen as further villages require evacuation.

Deputy mayor of Rhodes, Athanasios Vyrinis warned people were being forced to sleep in cardboard boxes and said there were not enough essentials.

Despite the situation on the ground, flights to the island have continued to operate, with some customers arriving late on Saturday to find their hotels already evacuated.

Airlines and holiday firms are now scrambling to bring customers home:

  • EasyJet announced it would operate two rescue flights with a total of 421 seats on Monday, and a third on Tuesday, in addition to its nine scheduled flights between Rhodes and the UK

  • Jet2 has cancelled all flights and holidays due to depart to Rhodes in the next seven days, but aircraft with no customers on board will be flown there in order to bring people back

  • British Airways said its flights to Rhodes were running as normal, but customers needing to return early could change their flight for free, and those not wishing to travel there in the next week from the UK could postpone their flight

  • Tour operator Thomas Cook said it had cancelled some holidays to affected areas, with full refunds offered. It added some customers booked to travel to other parts on Monday and Tuesday were being contacted with the option to cancel and be refunded if they wished

  • Tui has cancelled all its flights to the island until Wednesday, but customers currently in Rhodes will return on their intended flights home

Rhodes has been battling fires fanned by strong winds since Tuesday and roughly 19,000 people have so far been evacuated from the path of the blaze.

The Ministry of Climate Change and Civil Protection said it has been “the largest evacuation from a wildfire in the country”.

A further 1,200 will be evacuated from three villages - Pefki, Lindos and Kalathos.

Officials estimate 19,000 have been evacuated by land and sea with more people due to be evacuated from three villages – Pefki, Lindos, Kalathos

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