Dubai radio DJ caught up in Greek wildfires on family holiday

Ross Burill, a presenter with Virgin Radio, praises locals for helping battle flames on island of Corfu

Firefighters try to contain a fire near Vati, on the Greek Aegean island of Rhodes on Wednesday. Thousands were evacuated in both Rhodes and Corfu. AFP
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A Dubai radio DJ holidaying on a Greek Island hit by wildfires in recent days has praised members of the public for helping to fight the flames.

Ross Burill, a presenter and producer with Virgin Radio in Dubai who is visiting friends in Corfu along with his family, told how residents armed with buckets of water have stepped into action.

Blazes have ripped through forests in Croatia, Spain and Portugal, as well as in Greece, as the region bakes in a prolonged summer heatwave and record temperatures.

Over the weekend, fires forced more than 20,000 people from their homes on the island of Rhodes, with 2,500 more evacuated from Corfu.

If someone is planning to travel to Rhodes then they should keep an eye out for any changes to schedules
Sudheesh Thayyil Puthan, Deira Travel and Tourist Agency

The popular holiday island of Crete has also been affected, with about 2,000 holidaymakers from the UK returned on rescue flights in what has been described by Greek authorities as the largest evacuation in the country’s history.

On Corfu, fires on the 906m Mount Pantokrator were being brought under control by civil authorities on Wednesday afternoon.

“There are a few fires dotted about on the headland, and Corfu is quite mountainous,” said Mr Burill.

Greek wildfires - in pictures

“The embers of one fire seem to have started other fires in the area, by setting fire to trees.

“The locals from the village of Kassiopi, where I am, have been helping out with buckets of water or whatever they can to put the fires out.

“I’m down by the harbour and things are OK, no one is panicking and the locals say this a common occurrence.”

Aerial approach

Helicopters operating in the area have been unloading giant water buckets on ropes on to the flames, while planes flying overhead suck water from the sea and then return to dump the water on the hillside where most of the fires are.

“The flames are spreading but it is not too bad and they are a long way from where we are,” said Mr Burill, who worked as a DJ in Corfu from 2000-2004.

“People here are not too worried, they are more worried about what people will think about coming to Corfu.”

There was no disruption to flight schedules from the UAE, as airlines said planes carrying tourists to southern Europe would continue as planned for the foreseeable future.

Flydubai said its twice-weekly service to Corfu was operating to schedule.

A spokesperson said the airline would “continue to monitor the situation closely and any changes to the schedule will be communicated accordingly”.

Emirates said it was also operating as normal to Greece, and elsewhere in southern Europe.

Advice for holidaymakers

Meanwhile, travel agents in Dubai said travellers with flights booked to the region should keep in touch with their travel broker in case changes do arise.

“Compared to other European destinations, there is not huge demand for southern Europe and this part of Greece from the UAE at this time of year,” said Sudheesh Thayyil Puthan, general manager at Deira Travel and Tourist Agency.

“There is no international travel ban or restrictions imposed by travel authorities at present, so standalone flights are operating as usual.

“Only those with tour packages have concerns, as they are usually staying for a longer period and their accommodation may be affected.

“That is the main concern for travel now. Athens is not affected, so there is no panic yet.

“If someone is planning to travel to Rhodes then they should keep an eye out for any changes.”

Insurance, however, could be an issue. Mr Puthan said basic cover was unlikely to provide compensation for wildfires or natural disasters.

“It is unlikely a basic plan will compensate for related travel disruption,” he said.

“Airlines usually offer flexibility for passengers who may want to change their destination due to natural disasters like this.

“There are usually optional booking changes or refunds due to these issues.

“Travel agents and airlines understand the concern of passengers and want to help, so travellers should take advantage of the flexible fares and policies that are offered.”

Updated: July 27, 2023, 12:40 PM