Exclusive

'I wake up smelling burning': Honeymoon couple tell of nightmare escape from burning island of Rhodes

26 July 2023, 07:29

Ailsa and Ross Graham's honeymoon was cut short by the fires on Rhodes
Ailsa and Ross Graham's honeymoon was cut short by the fires on Rhodes. Picture: LBC
Charlotte Lynch

By Charlotte Lynch

A newlywed couple who spent two days fleeing the Rhodes wildfires have told LBC of their terrifying ordeal, as they feared they wouldn't make it off the island alive.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Ailsa and Ross Graham, from Hawick, Scotland, were among thousands of Brits who fled their hotels on Saturday (22nd July), after receiving an evacuation alert from Greek authorities.

The couple were halfway through their honeymoon when smoke began to engulf their hotel, turning the swimming pool black.

Ailsa told LBC: "We packed what we could in to our suitcase and headed towards the coast. Within seconds, we were met by thousands of other people just scrambling down this road with no idea where to go or what to do.

"We just had to keep running - we couldn't stop. We were just following the road, we just had to make sure we were in front of the fire.

Read more: 'It's like a nightmare': Wildfires break out in Sicily as flights cancelled and airport shuts after temperatures hit 47C

Read more: Two pilots confirmed dead after plane nose-dived to ground in fireball crash while fighting Greek wildfires

Ailsa and Ross on their wedding day
Ailsa and Ross on their wedding day. Picture: LBC

"Every time we turned around it was getting closer, it was really awful."

Ailsa said they had contacted their families to let them know what was happening, as the couple feared for their lives.

She said: "At one point we just thought, there's no way out of this, there's no way we can outrun this. It was just coming so thick and fast."

"We realised it had been two hours and we were still going, we were still running. At one point we did take a lift from a local because we didn't think we were going to be fast enough for the fire."

The couple were forced to flee their hotel after smoke engulfed it, turning the swimming pool black
The couple were forced to flee their hotel after smoke engulfed it, turning the swimming pool black. Picture: LBC

"We were burning, we were sweating, it was 40 degrees plus."

Ailsa and Ross eventually managed to cram on to a bus that was heading to the airport, but people were left behind.

"We keep reminding ourselves of how extremely lucky we are, because it wasn't everybody.

"We were driving past people who were still making their way down the coast, it was horrible to see. It was awful. There were families with young kids, there was elderly people there. It felt like a movie. It just didn't feel real."

They took refuge on a beach before eventually managing to reach the airport by bus
They took refuge on a beach before eventually managing to reach the airport by bus. Picture: LBC

But when they got to the airport, they couldn't find a flight with available seats. They spent two nights in a hotel near to the airport, and stayed in a room with a couple they did not know, because there weren't enough bedrooms available.

Ailsa claims some one-way flights on Saturday 22nd July were priced at as much as £2,000 per person.

"We would have given anything, but that was just unrealistic. We didn't know if the fire was going to be contained or continue to spread, we didn't know if these flights were going to be cancelled.

"You didn't know what situation you were going to be in from hour to hour, let alone the next day."

The couple say they have not had any communication with their holiday operator, TUI, who "weren't accepting calls".

Alisa said: "If they did accept your call they were saying they couldn't hear us and the line was breaking up, they were hanging up on us. They've never been in touch with us - we've tried to communicate with them a few times and had nothing in return.

"We'd been sent a link about registering for rescue flights, which we registered for I think on Sunday. We had an email as we landed home [on Tuesday] to say that we would be on a flight with them on Wednesday, but our original flight was on Tuesday, so it was even later than we were meant to get home.

The couple landed safely back in the UK on Tuesday morning.

Ailsa said the ordeal will stay with her for the rest of her life. She said: "I don't think I've slept since that first night. I wake up smelling burning, obviously in a dream. I keep waking up, sitting up and checking whether I can hear the sirens. It's constantly in the back of our minds."

In a statement on Sunday, TUI said: "The wildfires in the south-eastern parts of Rhodes have led to the evacuation of masses of holidaymakers in the past 24 hours, and our teams on the island are doing everything they can to provide assistance to TUI guests.

"Over 300 reps, drivers and service colleagues and doing their utmost to help where they can, working alongside the amazing local community and emergency services.

"We appreciate how distressing and difficult this situation is for customers who have been evacuated and ask that they follow the advice of the local authorities who are managing tourist movements in impacted areas and make contact with the TUI reps who are present in all evacuation centres.

"We’ll continue to work with the relevant authorities to do all we can to support and are working on plans to get customers home."

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Dreamland theme park, Margate, Kent

22 teens suffer suspected overdose at Kent gig as 17-year-old dies

Jack Black has cancelled the rest of his Tenacious D tour after his bandmate Kyle Gass made a comment on the assassination attempt on Donald Trump on stage on Sunday night.

Jack Black cancels tour over Tenacious D bandmate's Trump assassination comment

Police have been called to Grand Hyatt Erwan Hotel in downtown Bangkok

Mystery as six people found 'poisoned' in luxury five-star hotel in Bangkok ahead of Russian summit

TV chef Naomi Pomeroy died in a tubing accident in Oregon

Top US TV chef killed in horror accident on notoriously dangerous river in Oregon

Angela Rayner dismissed the comments made by Trump's would-be Vice President.

Angela Rayner hits back at Trump running mate after 'Islamist UK' comment

Strictly Come Dancing is reportedly considering hiring chaperones for celebrity stars after misconduct claims against two professional dancers.

Strictly Come Dancing could 'hire celebrity chaperones' after two professionals accused of misconduct

Police confirmed the human remains belonged to missing teen Jay Slater after a 29-day search

Jay Slater's mother pays tribute to 'beautiful boy' after body confirmed as that of missing teen

King Charles will lay out Labour's plan for government in the King's Speech.

What will be in Keir Starmer's first King's Speech and what does it mean?

Jamie Howlett is a serving police constable at the Metropolitan Police Service

Serving Metropolitan Police officer charged with sexually assaulting two children and raping adult

Body found in Jay Slater search is missing Briton, police confirm

Body found in Jay Slater search is that of missing Briton, police confirm

Police paused their search for Jay Slater two weeks after he vanished.

Madeleine McCann detective hunting Jay Slater breaks silence after ‘deteriorated’ human remains found in search

Exclusive
Children have been ‘left to fend for themselves’ when parents sent to prison (right stock image)

Children 'left to fend for themselves' when parents sent to prison – because authorities 'don't know about them'

The Spanish Civil Guard said Jay Slater, from Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, could have fallen in a steep and inaccessible area

Jay Slater's best friend Lucy Law pays heartbreaking tribute to 'happiest' person after his ‘deteriorated’ body found

Victoria Thomas-Bowen appears at Westminster Magistrates' Court today after Nigel Farage was drenched in a banana flavoured drink

OnlyFans model, 25, to stand trial after denying throwing a McDonald’s milkshake over Nigel Farage

Jay Slater was 'killed instantly' after falling from height in Tenerife family believe

Body found in hunt for Jay Slater was 'very deteriorated' as Tenerife officials reveal key details

Prince William hailed Southgate as a "true leader" in a touching tribute to the coach.

'A class act': Will and Kate share touching tribute to Gareth Southgate as England boss resigns