British family fleeing Rhodes face nightmare scenario of

A British holidaymaker has described the nightmare scenario he faced as he fled wildfire-ravaged Rhodes with his wife and two young children.

Matt Lewis told Sky News how he was confronted by “a combination between a towering inferno and the Titanic” as his family rushed to a beach to escape.

He and his wife formed a human shield around his children, aged four and eight, to protect them from the raging flames.

The family are among thousands of holidaymakers on Rhodes who have been subjected to gruelling ordeals battling to leave the Greek island.

A helicopter fighting blazes on the island of Evia crashed on Tuesday, with evacuations also taking place in Corfu while Crete has also been put on alert for wildfires.

Largest ever evacuation from Greece – latest on wildfires

Mr Lewis, a small weapons expert, said he was used to working in conflict zones and dealing with life in panic, but he admitted the situation was “terrifying”.

“With my wife and two young children and without any other foreign aid, obviously it was a very different set of circumstances,” he said.

The family were packed and ready to leave Rhodes on Saturday night when they realised their journey might not be straightforward.

“About three in the afternoon, things really started to turn,” Mr Lewis said, with the fire growing “significantly bigger” in size compared to days earlier.

Smoke pouring into the sky from Mr Lewis' hotel in Rhodes

Image: Smoke pouring into the sky from Mr Lewis’ hotel in Rhodes

Mr Lewis and his wife and children eventually making their way to Turkey before flying back to the UK

Image: Matt Lewis and his wife and children eventually made their way to Turkey before flying back to the UK

The hotel the family were staying in was designated as a rescue centre for other stranded holidaymakers, with around 1,000 people brought in.

“At that point, we started to hear quite horrific stories, of women walking 8km or so in the scorching heat with babies strapped to their chest,” he told Sky News.

‘We realised we were stuck’

The family initially hoped to travel to the airport via coach but the roads leading to the airport were closed.

“At that point, I think we realised we were stuck and tried to rent a car to drive out ourselves and try to go south around the fires but that wasn’t possible.

“So we decided to stay put.”

After about five or six hours, the family managed to get a room for the night but moments later, the fire alarm sounded and they fled to the beach.

Matt Lewis told Sky News his family were

Image: Mr Lewis told Sky News his family were ‘terrified’ during their ordeal

Recalling the scenes of “hysteria”, Mr Lewis said: “I can only describe it as a combination of a towering inferno and the Titanic.

“It was every man for themselves, people were very focused on their luggage and not women and children.”

He and his wife managed to get their children onto a small boat but they had to “wade out up to our necks to escape – because that was the only way out.”

They were separated temporarily before being reunited at a local school.

“We decided it was down to us to get ourselves out,” he said, with the family taking a ferry to Marmaris in Turkey before flying back to the UK.

“If we hadn’t, we would still be there today,” Mr Lewis said.

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Greek wildfires seen from space

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‘I didn’t think we were going to make it’

Another tourist, Amy Leyden, told how her family had to run through “thick smoke” after their hotel burned to the ground before fighting to secure a place on a rescue boat – with children falling in the water during the chaos.

“It was just terrifying because I didn’t think we were going to make it,” she said.

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Corfu: Thousands moved to safety

One holidaymaker told Sky News his family including six children aged one and 12 were “dumped on the beach” with “no idea what was going on.”

And one dad from Cambridgeshire slammed travel operator TUI for its efforts to support stranded passengers during the scenes of “utter confusion and chaos”.

He said he feared for the safety of his two daughters after they were forced to spend the night at a primary school sleeping on mattresses in a classroom.

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