Sheffield couple left stranded by travel reps in Rhodes stay at “refugee camp” in wildfire chaos

"If we had waited for and listened to the guidelines from Jet2, we would have died"
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

After evacuating their hotel in wildfire-stricken Rhodes, a Sheffield couple were told by their travel providers to stay put, despite the land behind the hotel being on fire, they claim.

Paige Enningham left the Olive Garden Hotel with her partner, Jack Staniforth, at around 3pm on Saturday. Hotel staff told them to head to the beach, and they went with barely any belongings as wildfire spread across the nearby grounds. 

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Paige said: “We just followed our natural instinct and left. If we had waited for and listened to the guidelines from Jet2, we would have died.”

Two hours after evacuating, the couple got a message from the holiday provider which said: “At the present time, no action is required from yourselves and hotels are not required to evacuate … If the situation changes then rest assured we will be in contact with you.”

Wildfires in Rhodes, behind Olive Garden Hotel. Paige took this photo as she evacuated.Wildfires in Rhodes, behind Olive Garden Hotel. Paige took this photo as she evacuated.
Wildfires in Rhodes, behind Olive Garden Hotel. Paige took this photo as she evacuated.

Paige said: “We were told coaches were going to come but they didn’t. There was a man in a six-seat minibus trying to get hundreds of people off the beach.

“We were taken from there to a cafe in Kalathos, and then after four hours, to another one. The TUI reps at the second one told us to just get on whatever bus came. We didn’t even book with them,” said Paige. “When I got that message from Jet2, I had already been evacuated twice.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

They were taken on a coach to temporary emergency accommodation in Rhodes Old Town, and stayed alongside 800 other locals and tourists in a sports hall turned “refugee camp” in 40 degree heat.

Paige and Jack, from Parson CrossPaige and Jack, from Parson Cross
Paige and Jack, from Parson Cross

Paige said: “The Greek people were amazing. They brought tonnes of food, drinks, and toiletries. Everything they had in the hotels and places they owned, they brought to the camp. Because we had no money, everything was at the hotel.”

Temporary accommodation in Rhodes Old TownTemporary accommodation in Rhodes Old Town
Temporary accommodation in Rhodes Old Town

After 18 hours at the camp, the couple and other Jet2 customers were taken to a hotel where they stayed for one night. The next morning, the minibus driver from the beach, Stefanos Euaggelidhs, arranged for them to stay there for the duration of the holiday.

Paige said: “He has been absolutely amazing. He was incredible. He saved us from the fire and got us to every destination. When Jet2 hasn’t been turning up, he’s been taking people to airports. In 24 hours he has been back and forth from the hotel to the airport four times.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Jet2 tried to give us the hotel reps numbers but they didn't answer. When the fire came, they were there, and then they weren’t. 

“When we did get a response from them, they said they will deal with complaints when we get home, but where were we supposed to sleep? Were we even going to make it out of here alive, you know?”

Smoke spreading at Olive Garden Hotel, before the evacuationsSmoke spreading at Olive Garden Hotel, before the evacuations
Smoke spreading at Olive Garden Hotel, before the evacuations

The company says it has been contacting customers who are still on the island as well as those who have returned home, and are continuing to do so. 

It also states it has a “hugely expanded team of colleagues” in Rhodes, present throughout resorts, evacuation centres, and at Rhodes Airport.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The all-inclusive holiday cost Paige and Jack £1,400. Since leaving the first hotel, they have had to spend £400 on food, drink and accommodation.

“Not everyone is in the same situation with money, you know? People have a certain amount to go on holiday with, and you don't expect to pay triple that. 

“Our parents have been sending us money. My dad said to me, ‘I wish I had enough money to just get you a private jet and get you home’.

“At this point, with every day that passes, I'm glad it is another day closer to home. I just want to be back home with my babies.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Paige and Jack are due to flying home today (Thursday,July 27) after a week away, as earlier flights were reserved for priority passengers.

In a statement, Jet2 said: “We understand Paige has been through an extremely difficult experience, and we are very sorry to hear this. Although extraordinary events such as these are completely outside of our control, our total focus is on looking after our customers and supporting those who have been affected. 

“Our absolute focus is on looking after customers, and we will continue to make decisions with the best interests of our customers in mind.

“In addition, a repatriation programme has also operated in tandem with our programme of scheduled flights, in response to the demand we are seeing.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Additionally, although events moved incredibly quickly over the weekend, it is extremely important to note that we acted immediately to suspend flights and holidays to Rhodes when we learned of these evacuations.”