'My son, 9, said he doesn't want to die': Tourists flee Greek island hotels amid fires in 95F heat

22 July 2023, 18:43 | Updated: 23 July 2023, 10:56

Tourists blamed holiday companies for leaving them 'hung out to dry'
Tourists blamed holiday companies for leaving them 'hung out to dry'. Picture: Social media

By Adam Solomons

A father has described his young son's anguish as they made a desperate journey to safety on a Greek island ravaged by wildfires.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

New Zealander Paul Kalburgi told LBC that police arrived at his hotel, the five-star Lindos Imperial Resort & Spa, and ordered an evacuation.

He said this evening: "It's a desperate situation - we were evacuated again. [We're] just trying to stay ahead of the fire by hitching a ride one hotel at a time."

Paul's husband and sons, nine and 12, wore towels on their faces as they moved southwards by foot.

"We threw our passports and phones and phone chargers in a bag and ran out", he said earlier.

At one point his younger son said he didn't want to die.

Paul said: "They’re worried, they keep asking every five seconds where we’re sleeping tonight and if their things are okay."

After arriving at a second location, a Red Cross vehicle took Paul's family further along the coast toward safety.

But they haven't heard a word from authorities and found themselves "in the middle of nowhere" as evacuators returned to the most dangerous locations.

Paul added: "We’re being fed and watered but nobody knows what’s happening."

Read more: Summer holiday washout: Torrential downpours set to batter UK as month's worth of rain to fall in 48 hours

Read more: Europe tourists told to make 'extreme heat plans' as wildfires rage in Greece and nine French regions issue alerts

The playwright said he had booked directly with the hotel, which meant no assistance from tour operators working to evacuate their own customers from holiday homes across the island.

More than 200 firefighters, 40 fire engines, three planes and five helicopters are now fighting the blaze, fire service spokesman Yannis Artopios said.

They're being assisted by more than twenty private boats, with a Greek navy vessel on its way.

Winds, high temperatures and drier conditions sent a wildfire which had previously burned on the island's centre toward coastal locations.

The fires even reached three hotels which had by then been evacuated, local media reported.

Paul tweeted earlier today: "Currently stranded in Rhodes escaping the wildfires on foot - left everything at the hotel and fled with towels across our faces.

"My youngest just told me he doesn’t want to die."

He added in an update: "The Red Cross just put us in the back of car and two kind dropped us further along the coast road, with hundreds of others.

"The sun is setting soon, so we have walked another 2k to the next hotel. We await information - still nothing from anyone."

Some holidaymakers blamed tour operators for leaving them 'hung out to dry' amid the dangerous heat.

TUI said some of its hotels were affected and that it was relocating customers to alternative accommodation.

Jet2 said it was aware of the situation and asked customers to follow local guidance.

A government text urged holidaymakers to evacuate, with hotel staff telling guests to walk south toward safety.

For some, that meant hours-long journeys with suitcases.

Fires caused by Greece's ongoing heatwave, which are thought to have killed at least two people, are set to slow on Monday.

But temperatures will again rise on Tuesday and could last until Friday, forecasters say.

Greece has received reinforcements from Slovakia, Israel, Jordan and Turkey.

Chief Forecaster at WeatherTrending on the upcoming heat and thunderstorms