Saturday 18 November 2017

Spirit of Dunkirk sunk as French officials call halt to rescue mission

Some stranded
travellers
evacuated
from Calais
in France
arrive at
Dover
marina
yesterday
after a
Dunkirk-style
rescue. Photo: Max Nash/PA
Some stranded travellers evacuated from Calais in France arrive at Dover marina yesterday after a Dunkirk-style rescue. Photo: Max Nash/PA

Emily Ashton in London

The British Conservative Party last night gave their backing to a Dunkirk-style evacuation of British citizens stranded in France because of the flight ban.

They urged the British government to charter ships for people stranded in Europe and ensure that border controls did not stop any rescue missions across the English Channel.

The Tories also called for the Royal Navy to help bring people home.

Their comments came after a rescue mission, launched by television presenter Dan Snow, to bring stranded travellers home from France was brought to a halt by French police.

Mr Snow set out across the English Channel yesterday morning with a fleet of speedboats to help those affected by flight cancellations but the operation was blocked by officials in Calais.

Conservative transport spokeswoman Theresa Villiers said ministers should charter ships to bring people home and urge ferry and rail operators to retain their normal pricing structures and not introduce "sudden and excessive price increases".

Ms Villiers said: "Those who are stranded abroad need reassurance from the government that they are doing all they can to help get people home and address the crisis."

It came after the Dunkirk-style rescue mission launched by Mr Snow to bring stranded travellers home from France ran into troubled waters.

The historian and adventurer set out across the Channel yesterday morning with a fleet of speedboats to help those effected by flight cancellations.

But the bold operation was brought to an unexpected halt after French police in Calais blocked their efforts.

Mr Snow had hatched the plan with a friend, Sam Peters, after his wife Debs became stranded following the disruption caused by the volcanic ash cloud drifting over Europe.

The pair were using boats borrowed from a Dover yachting firm and had appealed for people who urgently needed to get back to the UK to make contact with them on Twitter.

But a tweet yesterday afternoon informed followers that the mission had been aborted and apologised to those whose hopes of returning with the flotilla had been dashed.

The posting read: "We have been shut down! No reason. Rescued 25 on way home shortly. No more boats; we are very sorry."

It came after a series of tweets in the morning drummed up excitement ahead of the operation.

One tweet, posted in France, said: "We are still loading the boats, plenty of room at the moment. Get to Calais!"

And another read: "Thank you everyone for your support! The sun is shining in Calais and the boats are filling up."

Irish Independent

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