Lending a helping hand to evacuees

Lending a helping hand to evacuees

Britons Craig Gaby, his wife and their three children were on the beach when a message from the 112 civil protection hotline came on his cellphone on Saturday, July 22, telling them to evacuate the area. They saw the black smoke in the distance and walked 10 kilometers in nothing but bathing suits and flip-flops to the spot where boats were waiting to pick up evacuees and take them to Rhodes Town and the makeshift shelter set up at the Venetokleio Sports Arena. They would have spent the night there, sleeping on mattresses on the floor, if Vassilis Kostomiris had not shown up. “He was our savior; we were lucky to meet him,” says Gaby.

The president of the community of Psinthos, Kostomiris took in another two families with children – from the UK and Sweden – a total of 17 people, and arranged for accommodation in the village. One family stayed in a house owned by his son, another in a room-to-let offered free of charge, and the third in a house owned by a German expat. Gaby described how the village pharmacy and minimarket were opened so they could get supplies.

Kostomiris gave one family clothes and looked after the evacuees throughout their stay. “He loaned us his car and also took us to our hotel when it was safe so we could get our luggage and passports. He made this terrible experience more tolerable for us and our children, and we are grateful for that,” adds Gaby.

Boats were put into service to evacuate tourists via the beach and take them to the main town of Rhodes.

This was not the only gesture of support from the locals for evacuated tourists these days. Many opened their homes, others did the laundry for the Slovak firefighters dispatched to the island to help their Greek colleagues. Some, like Dimitris Akrivoulis, drove tourists to the airport so they could fly home. “Those with big houses took in families and those of us with small apartments gave them to people working in tourism in southern Rhodes,” he adds.

Such initiatives were mainly organized via Facebook, while others who wanted to help turned up at the various makeshift shelters to ask how they could be useful.

Akrivoulis put up two employees of a bar at a hotel that was partially damaged by the blaze. They’d spent the first night on the beach and then at his apartment in Rhodes town before their employer found them other accommodation. 

On Tuesday, Nikos Moustakas was expecting two British families who would be put up for free at his rooms-to-let in Vlycha because the water and power supply had not been restored at their hotel. Craig Gaby’s family, meanwhile, was taken to another hotel on the island by their tour operator for the next nine days of their vacation. A room was found at a unit where there were cancellations by tourists who no longer wanted to come to Rhodes because of the fires.

Craig Gaby and his family were on the beach when the message to evacuate came from the 112 civil protection hotline on July 22.


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