Firefighters and locals have been working for days trying to extinguish the devastating fires (Picture: AP)
Airlines are ramping up efforts to evacuate holidaymakers from Greek islands, as blistering heat makes life miserable for Brits forced from their hotels by out-of-control wildfires.
Both Rhodes and Corfu continue to be affected by the raging blazes, which sprang up after days of extreme temperatures dried up the landscape.
Greek firefighters called in reinforcements of planes and helicopters from countries including Croatia, Turkey and Egypt as they aimed to tackle the flames from the air.
During a debate in parliament, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told his colleagues: ‘We are at war – completely focused on the fires.’
One element of that war is the large-scale evacuation effort of tourists who have had to flee their accommodation as it was surrounded by flames.
Many of them painted a scene of chaos and terror, compounded by a lack of co-ordination.
Nicola Ellerbeck, who was on holiday on Rhodes with her husband and two children, told Metro.co.uk: ‘We were trying to keep calm for the sake of the kids but when the hotel staff told us to put on our facemasks and cover our mouths with towels, it felt extremely worrying.
‘We could see the trees and sun loungers outside our room burning and heavy smoke damage around the hotel and everyone was panicking.
‘It was as though we were in a living nightmare.’
Tourists on Rhodes line up to take coaches away from their accommodation as fires light up the sky (Picture: AP)
Nicola Ellerbeck’s husband Matthew and children eight-year-old Harry and Millie, 6, were among those unable to sleep in their beds (Picture: Nicola Ellerbeck)
Carli Beary’s hotel on Rhodes was used to host other tourists who had been told to leave the places they had been staying for their own safety.
She said: ‘We were then told over 200 people would be arriving. Our hotel was full to capacity already, but the local staff have been amazing, helping people even when they have their own families and homes to worry about – some of them have lost their homes.
‘My husband met with a family who had come straight from the fire. They had no possessions and had walked to safety. Their young daughter had visible signs of heat burn across her face.’
Airlines including easyJet, Tui and Jet2 are operating repatriation flights to help their customers get back home if they choose.
The wildfires have struck at a time of extreme heat across southern Europe (Picture: Reuters)
Advice on the Foreign Office website reads: ‘Extreme temperatures are affecting many areas of Greece and there are a number of active wildfires.
‘If you are a British national affected by wildfires, please follow the guidance from the emergency services. Call the Greek Emergency Services on 112 if you are in immediate danger.’
However, there have been calls for the department to take a tougher stance.
Liberal Democrats foreign affairs spokesperson Layla Moran said: ‘As wildfires blaze and thousands are evacuated, it is staggering that the Foreign Office travel guidance for Rhodes does not advise against all but essential travel.
‘Thanks to Conservative ministers’ inaction, many families are unable to make a claim against their insurance, leaving them paying the penalty for deciding not to fly out to the island.’
A spokesman for the prime minister said: ‘The current situation is impacting on a limited area in Rhodes and while it’s right to keep it under review and it’s possible that the advice may change, we do not want to act out of proportion to the situation on the ground.’
The heat has left vegetation on Rhodes and in other parts of Greece tinder-dry (Picture: AP)
Meanwhile, environment experts have said the disastrous wildfires should send a clear warning that humans must urgently tackle the climate crisis.
Meteorologist Jim Dale told Metro: ‘All the warnings by Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion are 100% correct, even if you question their tactics sometimes, like I do.
‘What they have been warning of is coming of age.’
Climate expert Kimberley J Simpson, from Sheffield University, added: ‘As temperature records continue to be broken on a regular basis, we should expect fire records to do the same.
‘Fires are becoming more frequent and intense, and are burning in places where fire was rarely seen before.
‘In Greece and other places in Southern Europe, a wildfire season like the current one will increasingly become the new normal under climate change.’
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