'Distressed' holiday makers helped by Scots volunteers amid wildfires

The team worked to support hundreds of people displaced as a result of the fires in July.

British Red Cross volunteers from Scotland helped ‘distressed’ holiday makers during Rhodes wildfires British Red Cross

Scottish volunteers who supported holidaymakers from the UK after wildfires broke out on the Greek island of Rhodes have told of the destruction they witnessed.

Liz Tait, 65, from Lossiemouth in Moray, led a delegation of four British Red Cross Psychosocial Support Team volunteers on deployment as they provided help to those stuck in the area.

The team worked alongside the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to help hundreds of people diplaced as a result of the extreme weather and fires.

Among Liz’s team in Rhodes was Becky Chapple, 37, from Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, who was taking part in her first trip with the psychosocial team as a volunteer.

Liz said: “This deployment was different to many others I have been on in the past as the people we were supporting had simply booked a holiday and were met with the wildfires and the subsequent destruction they caused.

“You are supporting them through the initial stages, like having to take shelter on the floor of a hotel which they weren’t staying in, being in large groups with strangers, not having access to fresh clothes, toiletries or medicine.”

The team also supported people for the return home and adapting to ordinary life once more.

Liz added: “You also have to prepare them for returning home and being in a position to return to normal life after going through such a traumatic event where at times they had been in fear for their lives.

“We met some very distressed people when we arrived in Rhodes and we had to help them function in a new environment while the wildfires were ongoing, and all the uncertainty that comes with that.”

Becky embarked on her first deployment as a member of the Support Team with all her training coming to the fore.

She said: “What I’ve heard about a lot of deployments is there can be a bit of waiting around to find out if you will be sent out – but for this particular incident, we were called at 11.30pm on Sunday night and were flying out by 6am the next morning.

Becky Chapple who was taking part in her first trip with the psychosocial team as a volunteer.British Red Cross

“I think when we arrived there was a clear need from the beginning to reassure and help as many people as possible. I was first deployed to hotels that had taken in those fleeing the fires, including people with ash on their clothes who were still clearly in shock after what had taken place.

“Some hotels who had capacities of around 2,300 would have an extra 2,000 on top of that, just trying to help as many people as they could.

“Staff, and local population including trained volunteers were amazing, providing food and water to everyone as well as opening conference and meeting spaces to house as many people as possible.”

More than 20,000 people were evacuated when wildfires broke out in July fanned by strong winds amid a prolonged and intense heatwave.

Thousands of UK holidaymakers were flown home to the UK.

The incident has led to growing frustration among the Greek population at the government’s perceived inaction to tackle the effects of wildfires within communities.

Liz and Becky both praised the work of the Hellenic Red Cross, who worked day and night alongside the fire service to help evacuate holidaymakers and local residents as well as provide food and water.

Liz said: “The Hellenic Red Cross volunteers were doing amazing work when we arrived in Rhodes and it was great to be able to support them.

“As our delegation arrived from the British Red Cross, they could see they were no longer alone and we were able to support them on the ground.

“After coming back to the UK, I received a text message from the Hellenic Red Cross service team leader thanking us for all of the support and helping to raise morale. It was great to know Becky, Bobby, Hannah and I were able to give them that boost as part of the wider international organisation.”

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code
Posted in