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Sunday, 24 November, 2002, 09:03 GMT
Miss World entrants tell of relief
Miss England Daniella Luan
Miss England said she wanted to see her family
Miss World contestants have arrived in London and told of their relief at escaping violence in Nigeria, which has reportedly claimed more than 200 lives.

A chartered plane carrying the women touched down at Gatwick Airport just after 0730 GMT, after the competition was switched from the Nigerian capital Abuja to London.

I think all the spirits have been lifted and we will have a good time in London

Daniella Luan
Miss England
Miss England, Daniella Luan, said: "I am happy to be home, excited. Obviously it's been quite daunting but I'm just happy to be home, looking forward to seeing my family."

The 22-year-old from Oxford added: "[My family] were very concerned. They wanted me back. I spoke to them every hour just to keep them informed."

Miss Scotland Paula Murphy
The women are said to feel safer in London
Figures released by the Red Cross on Sunday put the number of dead in Nigeria at 215.

The contestants in the beauty pageant relied on television reports for information about the trouble in Nigeria, after being confined to their hotel for security reasons.

The violence - much of it in the northern city of Kaduna - erupted on Wednesday when mobs of Muslim protesters took to the streets.

The army took control of the streets to prevent people - armed with sticks, daggers and knives - from attacking property and anyone they suspected of being Christian.

It was sparked by a newspaper article which suggested the prophet Mohammed would have probably chosen to marry one of the Miss World contestants if he were alive to see them.

'Happy to be back'

The competition is scheduled to go ahead on 7 December.

Evangelical Church of West Africa of Kaduna
Churches in Kaduna were among buildings attacked
Miss England organizer Angie Beasley said: "The girls are all pleased to get back to Britain because they feel safe here."

She said a venue for the contest would be announced in days.

Miss USA Rebekah Revels, wearing a black top and jeans, waved to a media scrum packed behind airport crush barriers, and said it was "wonderful" to be in the UK.

The French entrant to the pageant Caroline Chamorand said: "I feel very well. I'm happy to be back in London."

Event 'from Dark Ages'

The UK's Islamic Liberation party has condemned the contest as offensive to people of any religion.

Spokesman Sajjad Khan told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the event belonged to the "dark ages".

"The idea of having a beauty contest anywhere would be against many forward-thinking people, whatever faith and whatever ideology," he added.

But the pageant's organisers have blamed the media for exaggerating the scale of the violence.

Guy Murray-Bruce, national director of Miss World for Nigeria, said the contest was a family event which raised finances for poor people around the world.

The BBC's Clarence Mitchell
"The girls are tired but happy to be away from the violence"

Turning ugly
Miss World: Was it right to quit Nigeria?
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22 Nov 02 | N Ireland
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