A mum from County Durham has described the moment her five-year-old daughter asked if they were going to die while attempting to flee wildfires in Rhodes.Joanna Hughes, 35, her husband Jon, 38, and their daughter Emilia were forced to run for safety after their family holiday turned into a a desperate escape as flames engulfed the Greek island.On Saturday, the trio left their belongings and fled the hotel due to wildfires. They joined thousands of other tourists as they walked along the rocky beach during extreme heat in search of safety.
Mrs Hughes said: "It was just like walking in an oven, it was so hot. I couldn't see at all."There were babies wrapped in towels, it was horrific. We were up so high and we had no where to go, we had to keep going or we would be engulfed with the smoke. You could see the flames in the mountains."We were just walking and walking away from the flames that were coming down. We just didn't have a clue where we were going. We were following one road and there was no plan."We were trying to keep ourselves together but Emilia could see that it wasn't right. She could sense it. She did say a couple of times 'Are we going to die?'. That is something I won't forget for a long time.
The family, from Murton, walked for four miles to escape the flames and thick black smoke.
They reached a hotel where the army and police were transporting people away from the area.
Officers took them in a police car to a third hotel 13 miles away, where they met another family from Germany, who had a rental car.
The two families decided to drive to the airport, where they managed to book flights home. Mrs Hughes said they paid £300 each to secure a flight back to Newcastle on Sunday morning.
Mrs Hughes said: "We thought it was probably our best chance of getting home. "We could still be waiting there or we could have been moved into a school. If we hadn't have got into the rental car, we would still be stranded somewhere else."There were at least three or four families that managed to get booked onto the same plane as us. They had the clothes they were wearing and that was it. We haven't got anything, we have lost everything."
The Hughes family travelled to Rhodes for a 10-night all inclusive break, which they booked through Jet2.
They arrived on the Greek Island on Wednesday 19 July, and were due to return home on Saturday 29 July.
Mrs Hughes said: "When we landed we were in the taxi to get to the resort and we could see the smoke already. The taxi driver said the fire had been going for a few days.
"We got to our hotel late at night and there was already ash on the sun lounger outside our room, so there was definitely something up in the air. At first we were fine, we were around the pool enjoying ourselves and there didn't seem to any warnings.
"There was nothing from Jet2 to say there's ongoing fires in Rhodes. We had nothing from Jet2 and nothing from the Greek authority. So it was as if it was going to be fine."Mrs Hughes said that on Saturday afternoon the wildfires got worse and they decided to leave the hotel.She said: "We grabbed one bag, our passports and some cash and we left."
Jet2 have cancelled all flights to Rhodes up until, and including, 30 July and will fly empty aircrafts to Rhodes so they can bring customers back to the UK.A spokesperson said: "The situation in Rhodes continues to evolve quickly, and our absolute priority is the health, safety and well-being of customers and colleagues in the affected areas."
"Our in-resort teams are working hard to comply with the guidance of local authorities, and we are continuing to bring more customer helpers and colleagues into the area to provide further assistance."
"We are contacting all customers in affected areas as quickly as possible by telephone so that we can support them with what they need.
"We are sending direct communications to affected customers to let them know this, and to remind them of our 24/7 Customer Helpline number.
"We are keeping the situation under constant review, and we will continue to make decisions in the best interests of our customers."
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