Swansea family 'exhausted' after being evacuated from their hotel as wildfires burn in Rhodes

  • 'Families were being separated and we didn't know where we were going or what was happening', said Katherine.

A family from Swansea who were evacuated from their hotel in Greece as wildfires continue to burn have spoken about the "chaos" they experienced.

Katherine Waldemar Brown and her four children were staying at Tui resort, Atlantica Dreams in Gennadi, when half-way through their week-long break, they were told to evacuate.

"On Friday, there was a lot of smoke," she explained.

"There was sort of an orangey hue and then we realised the clouds were quite orange in colour and you could see people going round the corner to have a look and there was a big plume of smoke - quite white smoke but enough to block out the sun."

Smoke can be seen billowing over a Rhodes resort Credit: Katherine Waldemar Brown

Katherine said as the situation grew worse, their hotel closed its restaurants and bars at nine o'clock.

"It was getting worse every 10 minutes, you could see more flames so by 10 o'clock we were told that we were to go now and to go back to our rooms and spend as little time as possible taking only basic stuff," she said.

"Then when we got outside the hotel, there was one coach and half a dozen cattle trucks and that was really chaotic because people were fighting to get onto these cattle trucks and families were being separated, children were crying.

"I got on with all the children but I was at the back while my children were at the front but I knew they were there.

"The worse thing for me was we didn't know where we were going or what was happening."

Greek authorities confirmed that 19,000 people have been evacuated from Rhodes, with the country's Ministry of Climate Change and Civil Protection saying it was "the largest evacuation from a wildfire in the country."

Firefighters have been tackling wildfires on the island as they continue to burn for the sixth day. They have been trying to stop the blaze from spreading to the forests in the mountainous areas of Rhodes.

People watched as smoke billowed from the island Credit: Katherine Waldemar Brown

Around 16,000 people were evacuated by land, with a further 3,000 being evacuated by sea, local officials said.

Katherine said people were "fighting" to get on boats which were evacuating people off the island - which made the process "very, very slow".

She estimated there were "probably five small boats", adding: "because the boats were small and people were taking a long time to get on them because they were fighting to get on, so obviously instead of taking two minutes to embark, each boat was taking 10 or 15 minutes".

"It took a long time and you never knew where the boat was going to stop so you couldn't put yourself in the right place - it was just luck if you were going to get on the boat or not.

"It was really, really chaotic."

She estimated there was "a good 1500, if not 2000" people on the beach being evacuated, adding that it took her and her family four hours to get on a boat.

Katherine has managed to secure a room at the Rodos Palace and said her and her family are "exhausted, hot and sweaty. We can't check in for another hour but it'll be a relief when we do get into the room."

She said it was her first time bringing her children on holiday in eight years and although "the beginning of the holiday was great", she said "it was not the ending we would have wanted."

They are hoping to fly home as she had originally planned on Wednesday.

Wildfires seen from a Rhodes resort Credit: Katherine Waldemar Brown

She added: "The locals have been amazing, the owner of the hotel here is a mayor and everything is laid on for free. When we were in a school a lady turned up with food and they were crying and hugging us and saying 'sorry', but it's not their fault."

While no casualties have yet been reported, six people were briefly hospitalised with respiratory issues. People have been evacuated from 12 villages and several hotels.

A trench was dug up in the Kiotari resort - the main focus of evacuations on Saturday - to stop the fire from threatening Gennadi, another seaside village.

Jet2 announced that it has cancelled flights to Rhodes that were due to depart on Sunday, with TUI scrapping all flights and holidays to the island up to and including Tuesday, July 25.

Travel company TUI released a statement on social media, advising those currently in the affected areas in Rhodes to "follow advice from local authorities and our teams on the ground."

It added: "TUI is taking care of its guests and employees as good as possible, we are in close contact with local authorities. We also extend our thanks to the many men and women who are currently fighting against the wildfires."

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