quotWe saw the fire getting closerquot French tourists tell of

"We saw the fire getting closer": French tourists tell of panic to evacuate Rhodes island

The Greek island has been under fire for almost a week. More than 30,000 people have already been evacuated, “the largest evacuation operation ever carried out in Greece”.

Her vacation turned into a nightmare. More than 30,000 residents and tourists were evacuated on Sunday from the Greek island of Rhodes, which has been in flames since Tuesday. There are still many French people who have spent their holidays on the island and are trying to find a return flight as soon as possible.

Camille, a young French woman on holiday with her family and a group of 200 French people, tells BFMTV that she was evacuated three times before reaching the airport north of Rhodes.

“Everything happened within 24 hours, we had to walk along the southern beaches with the suitcases, some were brought by boat, others by bus, we made stops at schools, but in the middle of the night we all received a warning on our phones to evacuate,” she says a third time via our antenna.

“People panicked”

On this third departure in the middle of the night, she explains that the tourists have panicked.

“People were panicking because we saw the fire getting dangerously close on the horizon, people were dying to get on the boats and buses,” says the young woman, whose family was separated at the time of the evacuation.

If Saturday was officially the last day of the family vacation, it was impossible for them to return to France as planned. Her flight was canceled and at that time no other flight was organized for her repatriation.

7 kilometers on foot at 40°C

Natalia, who was vacationing with her relatives on the island, experienced the same thing. She tells TF1 she saw staff at her hotel “panic” before hearing sirens and being told to evacuate. Then the same journey as Camille begins, seven kilometers long and below 40 °C along the beaches with her luggage.

“Elderly people, mothers and small children who were bright red from the heat suffered the most,” says her husband.

When Natalia evokes “fear” as the first emotion, she hints that it’s “the adrenaline rush” that has taken over. “We had to evacuate, save our skins.” They spent two nights at the airport with his family and are still waiting for a flight.

“We hope to see the light in a few days”

Hugo also saw the fires progress and “the Canadairs” overtook his hotel. He prepared “mentally” for the evacuation, packed all his bags and arrived at the airport on Saturday. On Sunday he said over our antenna that one should always wait before boarding a plane.

The locals hope that the situation will develop positively very quickly.

“We hope to see the light in a few days that all this hell will end, we are still worried,” laments Despina Kokkinou, a resident of the island, on the microphone of BFMTV.

While sharing the residents’ anger at the authorities not taking these fires “seriously”, she particularly underlines the solidarity used to evacuate the most vulnerable.

Greece has been plagued by a heatwave for the past ten days, which worsened this weekend with temperatures exceeding 46°C locally. The Rhodes fire was fanned by strong winds while the thermometer read 36C on Sunday, according to the national weather service EMY.