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Rhodes fires: Dad rescues car loads of stranded tourists on blazing Greek island

(SWNS)
Jonathan Lewis pictured as wildfires spread in Rhodes, Greece. (SWNS)

A father has described how he made six return trips in a hire car to take families to safety during the Rhodes wildfires.

The Greek island has been ravaged by blazes since the weekend, forcing the evacuation of about 19,000 people, many of whom ended up sleeping at the airport, in schools and sports centres and even on the street.

There are an estimated 10,000 British tourists on the island, which was evacuated along with parts of Corfu as temperatures soared past the 45C mark.

Jonathan Lewis, 62, from Attleborough, Norfolk, was holidaying on Rhodes with his family when fires broke out.

Read more: Live updates on Greece fires as Briton tourists start returning home

(SWNS)
Smoke billows near the resort where Jonathan Lewis and his family were staying on the Greek island of Rhodes. (SWNS)

He used his hire car to make six return trips in and out of the danger zone, carrying several families to safety during an eight-hour operation on Saturday as smoke billowed from the mountain close to the resort where he was staying.

"People were saying, 'It's only a bit of smoke' and not to worry," he said.

Watch: British couple tell of their 'nightmare' on fire-ravaged Rhodes

"But I thought it was more than just a little smoke. And I'm not much of a fan of sunbathing anyway, so I thought I would see if I could help."

Lewis said travelling over the mountain towards the village of Lardos in his rental car was like driving into "the end of the world".

He said he saw beach bars engulfed with flames and families fleeing burning hotels and bungalows.

Lewis stopped to pick up one family and drive them over the mountain to a hotel.

"There were no rooms, but there were seats, phones, internet and power," he said.

"I saw some people getting their luggage and dropping it as they ran to the beach as the brush at the side caught fire."

(SWNS)
Jonathan Lewis used his hire car to rescue people in Rhodes from spreading wildfires. (SWNS)

Lewis said he saw tourist boats backed up against the shores to take people to safety.

"I picked up an Austrian man and he just burst into tears," he said.

"He told me he had put his wife and children on the boat as he watched it disappear into the smoke that sat on the surface."

Lewis said his rental car's thermometer reached 45C during his rescue.

"Buses were stopping and queuing a mile down the road from where all the people were," he said.

"So I kept weaving through car parks, getting as many in the car as I could, taking them up the hill and going back.

Read more: Rhodes and Corfu are safe for tourists, Greek minister insists

(SWNS)
Jonathan Lewis made six return trips over eight hours to take families in Rhodes to safety. (SWNS)

"I just wanted to help people get out. It's common sense."

He said he made six round trips between midday and 8pm on Saturday, picking up people along the way.

At 1am on Sunday, Lewis and his family were evacuated from their resort but found a new hotel room for the rest of their stay. They are now awaiting a flight home.

People praised his efforts on social media.

"What a hero! Well done. Man of the moment," one wrote.

Another said: "Top bloke for jumping in and helping those families out."

Watch: Foreign Office advises Britons on Rhodes to 'stick close to your tour company'