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Friday, 8 September, 2000, 23:38 GMT 00:38 UK
Trapped Britons plan 'escape'
La Rochelle: the resort has become a trap for stranded holidaymakers
La Rochelle: the resort has become a trap for stranded holidaymakers
Angry British tourists stranded in France by the fuel blockades have described forming themselves into convoys and "escape committees" to try to deal with the lack of fuel and food.

But with petrol and information both running dry, some tourists say they feel abandoned, with no one to turn to for help, and facing mounting costs running into thousands of pounds.


You are used to having your liberty... to be forced to stay in one place is a bit of a nightmare

Stranded tourist Tony Worsdall
Thousands of Britons are thought to be stranded at campsites, holiday cottages and resorts across the country.

"Most of the families here face being thousands of pounds out of pocket," said internet consultant Tony Worsdall, stranded with up to 100 other British people at a campsite in St Just, near La Rochelle.

Disgruntled

"They are having to take unpaid leave to stay here, plus the cost of new ferry crossings home, and extending accommodation.


Many of the blockades remain in place. Road travel should therefore be avoided

UK Foreign Office
"If there is no progress on this by about Wednesday there will be some very, very disgruntled people here."

Mr Worsdall told News Online that - for him - every day trapped in France represents thousands of pounds in lost business.

His children, like many others, have been unable to return to school.

And with the tourist season drawing to a close, some families are facing the withdrawal of vital facilities like camp shops.

Pedal power

On the St Just site, British tourists are planning to spend time on Saturday organising themselves into groups.


I have always believed in the right to protest, but this has brought the whole country to a standstill

Hefin Rees
"Those with the most petrol in their cars can go on longer journeys to buy provisions," said Mr Worsdall.

"The rest of us will have to get on our bikes."

Other families may be placed in charge of keeping in touch with the latest news developments, using the camp's one internet terminal and mobile phones to check on UK news bulletins.

"There are so many rumours, and we are having to rely on information from the UK," said Mr Worsdall.

Another stranded Briton, lawyer Hefin Rees, is marooned with his family and friends - including two babies - in the relative comfort of a gite south of Sarlat in the Dodogne.

Petrol convoys

"I have always believed in the right to protest, but this has brought the whole country to a standstill. We are pawns in this whole game. It is very frustrating," he said.

Protests caused massive congestion
Some Britons had already set off for home when the blockades began
Mr Rees and other British tourists in the Dordogne have been forming themselves into convoys, searching out any petrol stations still selling fuel.

Those with the best local knowledge have been placed at the head of the queue, leading their fellow countrymen and women through the picturesque countryside in the quest for fuel.

But even finding a petrol station with fuel left usually means a maximum sale of Fr100 (around 10).

Gamble

Other motorists face a gamble of trying to eke out their remaining supplies to try to reach the Spanish border.

One family's in-car computer is telling them they can reach sanctuary in Spain with their remaining fuel - but only at a constant 40mph.


It seems most of the interest has been on clearing lines of trade - people don't seem to realise we are here

Tony Worsdall
If the gamble fails they could be left worse off - stranded at the roadside rather than at a holiday base.

Most tourists are preparing to tough it out and make their excuses to their bosses - but in growing frustration at their abandonment.

"You are used to having your liberty, and to have it just taken away and be forced to stay in one place is a bit of a nightmare," said Mr Worsdall.

"It seems most of the interest has been on clearing lines of trade. People don't seem to realise we are here."

The Foreign Office is not warning tourists to stay out of France - but its official advice states that road travel should be avoided.

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See also:

08 Sep 00 | Europe
France fuel deal in disarray
08 Sep 00 | UK
UK fuel protest to spread
07 Sep 00 | Business
Oil price eases back
06 Sep 00 | Europe
Analysis: A very French blockade
05 Sep 00 | Europe
Wider fuel blockade threatened
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