A British actress feared she and her three young sons may never make it out alive when the fires burned down half of her hotel in Rhodes.
Ariana Fraval travelled alone to the island with her three sons aged 11, nine and six for a week’s holiday at the Mitsis Rodos Maris resort hotel.
On the fifth day of their holiday, they ventured out as usual to the beach with their swimwear on, when Ariana suddenly started coughing.
The 43-year-old, who lives in the Wirral, told Metro: ‘Out of nowhere I saw billowing clouds of smoke and ash right in front of me and I felt a strange taste in my mouth and couldn’t stop coughing.
‘There was a sudden eerie feel to the beach and so I just grabbed the kids and went to the hotel reception to ask what was happening.
‘They kept reassuring us everything was fine, but I knew it wasn’t as my chest felt tight, and it felt as though we were inhaling smoke. So I raced upstairs to our room to gather our belongings.’
At that point, the hotel’s fire alarms went off, and as the children shoved their soft toys into their backpacks, Ariana tried to grab their passports from the safe.
However, a sudden power cut meant she couldn’t unlock it.
‘We basically just raced back to the beach as were told that was the safest place to be,’ said Ariana, who has appeared in Hollyoaks with her husband Gregory Finnegan.
‘The boys were very scared and there was a long wait to get across a bridge that led to the beach and all I could see were the flames coming nearer towards us.
‘I tried to share my facemask with the boys, but also tied t-shirts across our mouths. All I could see were the flames getting closer and closer and the hotel next door was on fire so I know we had to get away fast.’
Despite being extremely fearful, Ariana knew she had to try and keep calm for the sake of her boys.
‘Nobody was telling us anything so I just decided we had to get as far away as possible. We began to follow the hundreds of people we had seen making their way up the mountains,’ she said.
The family walked over six miles to get to a spot they thought was safe, before they were herded into another hotel where they were left with no food or water.
Ariana said: ‘In my darkest thoughts I feared myself and the kids were going to get burnt alive but all I kept doing was reassuring the boys all would be okay.
‘After a few hours sitting on beanbags in this hotel we were told to run to the road as the fire was coming closer and to try and get rescued from there.’
With hundreds of other people shoving their way on to the awaiting trucks, Ariana described the scene as chaos, with nobody giving any care to the families with young babies.
A Greek family took the family to a local school where they waited for hours, as Ariana made friends with another lady travelling alone with her kids.
Together, the families waited until they were picked up by police and army truck who took them to the rescue boats.
Ariana said: ‘By this point my eldest son was having a panic attack and his breathing was all over the place. I was trying to be calm but the smoke inhalation meant I was coughing a lot.
‘We had to walk in the dark into the water to try and access the boats and I thought we may have to end up swimming for our lives and never make it.’
Eventually, 15 hours after their ordeal began, the family were taken by a small boat onto a big one that sailed through the night into the old city of Rhodes.
They were given food and new clothes at a villa belonging to the Greek friend of a woman Ariana had met along the way.
On discovering that half her hotel had burnt down, Ariana was then driven by the family back to see if her belongings were still there.
‘I couldn’t believe my bedroom hadn’t burnt down,’ she said. ‘I was able to grab our passports and get out of there.’
Having returned home on her original Ryanair flight on Monday, Ariana admits she has been left feeling ‘traumatised,’ and her youngest son has voiced fears of being in a fire back at home.
‘I feel as though I have lived through a horror movie,’ Ariana added. ‘The trauma of what we went through is really only hitting me now.’
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