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Thursday, April 22, 1999 Published at 12:27 GMT 13:27 UK


Riots trap British tourists

Fires burned in the Jamaican capital

Thousands of British tourists in Jamaica remain trapped in their hotels after violent riots that have killed six people and left dozens injured.

A curfew has been imposed and the civil unrest has prompted the Foreign Office to warn tourists against all non-essential travel to the Caribbean island.

People planning to fly to Jamaica are being warned that the situation remains "unpredictable", on the fourth day of nationwide demonstrations over increases in petrol duty and vehicle licences.

Tourists already in Jamaica are advised to stay in their hotels unless absolutely essential and to exercise "extreme caution" if they have to travel.

Tourism to the island has been severely affected, although the latest reports from diplomats indicate that the violence is easing.

Free cancellations

There were rapid responses from tour operators to the islands. Holidaymakers due to fly out in the next couple of days have been offered free cancellations or alternative dates by Kuoni Tours.

A statement from Thomson Holidays said: "First indications are that demonstrations are restricted to non-tourist areas and Thomson holidaymakers are unaware of, and unaffected by, the protests.

"We will, therefore, allow customers to remain in their hotels, but as a precaution we have cancelled all excursions for today."

The statement added that Thomson would contact all passengers due to travel to Jamaica on the next two departures before the weekend, making them aware of the updated Foreign Office advice.

Thursday morning's British Airways flight from Gatwick to Montego Bay did not have its scheduled stop off in Kingston.

Entrepreneur Gordon Stewart, who owns the Sandals hotel resort chain, said: "The gas tax will be a joke compared to the money we are going to lose in tourism."

Cruise ship passengers were told to stay out of the northern resort town of Ocho Rios, and some hotels in Montego Bay reported that tourists were unable to reach the airport.

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