A British father-of-four has described the hell his family endured as they fled the Rhodes inferno last night.
PE teacher Daniel Jones has to wade into the ocean to get his young family into a pleasure boat to escape the flames that are chasing them.
Daniel, 37, was on holiday with his wife Hannah, 35, and their four children, Ethel, 2, Oliver, 5, Albert, 7 and Rupert, 9, when they were kicked out of their luxury hotel at 10pm on Saturday night.
Daniel told The Sun: “We only arrived in Rhodes on Friday night, so Saturday was our first day by the pool.
“Around 12pm I looked up and the sun was gone and there was a long plume of smoke.
“At the end the whole hotel was filled with smoke, and there was an orange glow on the side of the mountain. It was very scary.”
Daniel said that during the day, hundreds of other vacationers arrived at their hotel after being transferred to other places on the island.
“It was chaos, the lobby was like Heathrow the airport. We packed our bags ready to leave but there was no communication with the tour guide about what we should do.
“Finally, the evacuation alarm sounded in the hotel and the manager said that we all need to leave on foot.
“We just followed the crowd and walked at night dragging our cases and my wife pushing the cart. The children were tired, upset and crying and there was chaos, fear.
“At one point, the TUI representative said there were six coaches coming to pick us up and told us to wait, but none came. It was the hotel manager who told us to walk for safety.
“In the end we met two Red Cross men who told us to go to the beach.”
Daniel said there were 400 people stranded on the beach in pitch darkness.
It’s been terrible, our holiday has been ruined and the kids are upset
“There was great confusion, madness.
“There was a time when you could clearly see the fire approaching but there were no boats to escape from. I felt that I did not have the strength to protect my family.”
Daniel said that in the end, some local people brought two seafarers and started carrying people.
“We were among the last people to leave and I had to go into the water with the children. I reached my neck and had to help them up the ladder,” he recalls.
“The children were wearing pajamas and they were crying and wet, it was terrible, they were scared, it was sad to see.”
Daniel said he sat on the boat for an hour and a half ashore while the pilot worked out where to pick everyone up.
They were later taken to a beach on the north side of the island before being crammed into a minibus and headed to a nearby school with many other families.
“The local people have been wonderful, they have given us food and drink, but now we just want to go home, the whole experience has been very painful, especially for the children.”
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Daniel and hundreds of other Brits are trying to arrange a return to the UK.
He added: “It has been terrible, our holiday has been ruined and the children have suffered.
“TUI is talking about taking us back to the hotel, but there is no way the children will want to go back there after what happened, we want to go home.”
More than 30,000 locals and tourists, including many Britons, have been forced to flee in the biggest evacuation operation Greece has ever seen as fires rage on the popular island.
More than 200 firefighters, helicopters with water bombs and emergency rescuers are battling the country’s worst blaze.
The fire, which broke out on Tuesday in the mountains, has destroyed large areas of the islands, burning houses and hotels and even reaching some beaches.
Dramatic footage shows dozens of tourists and locals walking and carrying their luggage and children along the dirt roads.
Busloads of Brits who escaped were taken to makeshift camps in gyms, schools and hotel conference rooms where they spent the night on the ground.
British embassy officials in Athens urged Brits to leave the area on Saturday evening – as flights to Rhodes continued to be grounded.
Horrifying images emerged of dozens of people with young children in desperate need waiting to be lifted aboard in total darkness as the fire burns behind.
A British tourist who was forced to flee the blaze described it as “the end of the world”.
A young man from London, Ian Morrison, was living in the Kiotari area when he saw the lake becoming “black with soot” and ash falling on people’s heads.
After walking for a long distance, he finally took a ride to Gennadi’s beach, he said Sky News: “In the next few hours, the number of people in that area just increased and increased.
“Then when the light started to fall, people started to worry a lot about how to get out of this situation.
“It was literally like the end of the world,” he said as the flames tried to chase him away.
A fire has been burning for about a week on the island Greece has been experiencing extreme heat which has made it difficult to put out the fire.
And the battle is expected to intensify today, with more storms blowing across the island and fanning the flames.
“The wind is expected to be very strong from 12:00 to 5:00 p.m., without leaving the previous forecast,” said fire brigade spokesman Vassilis Vathrakoyiannis.
“This is not a fire that will end tomorrow or tomorrow,” he added. “It will be bothering me for many days.”
Firefighters, with the help of aerial bombers and activists from Slovakia fought three flights on Sunday.
Fire extinguishers are being lit to prevent the flames from spreading to dense forest or threatening residential areas.
Mother-of-three Helen Tonks, from Manchester, flew into Rhodes on Saturday night with her three daughters and her husband ahead of a two-week holiday.
He told The Sun newspaper: “There was no communication at all. We came out here and were told our hotel was among those evacuated.
“They put us on a coach and brought us to the school in Rhodes Old town. There are hundreds of us here. We were put in dormitories in the classrooms.
“Many are sleeping on mattresses on the basketball court in the gymnasium.”
Jet2 has now canceled all flights and holidays scheduled to depart from Rhodes today, while promising flights will still depart from the island.
Tui have now also canceled all their flights and holidays to Rhodes until including Tuesday 25th July.
The country was also hit by “severe and dangerous” heatwaves earlier this month with temperatures once again reaching 40C.
Meteorologists have announced that 2023 is the year of El Niño – a natural phenomenon that occurs around the world and causes changes in the global climate.
The UN’s World Meteorological Organization has said that it will increase the temperature around the world, and the effects may last throughout the year.
And despite the heat of this summer, the European record temperature of 48.8C – recorded in 2021 in Sardinia, Sicily – has not been reached and is not expected to be broken.