A COUPLE who feel lucky to be alive have hailed a Petersfield firm as lifesavers after fleeing a burning resort.
Meon Valley Travel (MVT) came to the rescue of Jack Hunter and his partner Emily after fire engulfed their hotel on Rhodes.
The pair literally had to run for their lives as flames and smoke on the Greek island threatened to engulf them and other guests on a harrowing run to the beach.
They were eventually taken to safety by locals with support staff at the travel company working day and night to get them transport, accommodation and alternative flights home.
Jack booked the holiday through Meon Valley Travel as the High Street firm runs a travel club for Professional Football Association members. He believes he and his partner Emily wouldn’t have been safe without the firm.
“We contacted Meon Valley and the PFA Travel Club who have just been amazing and we wouldn’t have been safe had it not been for them,” said Jack, who lives near Manchester.
Staff at the hotel where Jack was staying with his girlfriend, Emily, and their nine-year-old autistic daughter told guests not to panic and ignore the smoke before effectively leaving them for dead.
“The whole hotel was smoked out,” said Emily.
“You couldn’t breathe, it was in your eyes, it was in your hair and no-one was telling us anything.
“The roads were shut. No-one could get through and there was no signal. Within about ten minutes of standing there the army came in, screaming and shouting ‘get to the beach’.
“Run south and don’t stop for anything was the advice.”
They ran barefoot for nearly 15 hours before eventually getting taken by boat to a safer resort. When they finally made contact MVT worked throughout the day and night to get them to safety, first by contacting a boat operator called Michael and then booking them into a hotel far away from the flames.
It was later discovered Michael put the holidaymakers before his own family as his house was reportedly destroyed by the same fire. He even collected the luggage the family left on the beach while fleeing and returned it to Jack, Emily and their daughter at their new hotel.
Jack said: “Meon Valley arranged for a taxi to take us to the most amazing hotel and paid for two rooms. They sorted us out with everything.”
“We’re all cut and bruised but extremely grateful for the help we got,” added Emily. “The locals, MVT, Michael, they’ve just been amazing.”
Karen Beagrie, operations director at MVT, said the experience must have been harrowing for the trio but is naturally pleased her firm could help.
She said: “We have an emergency report department and we’ve had the ash cloud and the tsunami but we’ve never had to pluck someone off a beach before.”