[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Saturday, 4 September, 2004, 17:45 GMT 18:45 UK
Stranded Britons wait for Frances
Miami resident use plywood to cover his windows
Florida residents have been bracing themselves for Hurricane Frances
Thousands of British tourists left stranded in Florida are still waiting for Hurricane Frances to hit.

UK airlines have axed dozens of Florida flights with airports closing ahead of the storm, now expected on Sunday, a day later than first forecast.

It means around 6,000 are stuck in Florida, with a further 6,000 in the UK unable to fly out to the state.

Forecasters say the storm has weakened but that it could yet strengthen again after sweeping through the Bahamas.

Most of the holidaymakers have been told they can apply for refunds or book alternative flights.

Some cruise liner trips in the Miami and Caribbean region have also been cancelled with other cruise companies changing itineraries to avoid Frances.

A spokesman for Thomas Cook Airlines, which cancelled two flights on Friday and a departure from Manchester airport to Orlando on Saturday, said the company was keeping "a close eye on the situation" and would be flying people home as soon as possible.

About 900 holidaymakers travelling with Thomas Cook who were due to leave Florida on Friday had been put up in temporary accommodation until the airports reopened.

A helpline for anyone affected by the disruption has been set up by the company on 0870 010 1806.

Structural problems

A spokesman for tour operator Thomson Holidays said it would also be monitoring the situation but that it was not known when the airports would be ready to reopen.

Even if they were open by Monday, structural problems or staff with wrecked homes could mean further delays, the spokesman added.

Some have been evacuated to other areas, others are remaining where they are. They are being looked after, being given food and welfare
Abta spokeswoman Frances Tuke

Earlier on Saturday, Frances Tuke, a spokeswoman for the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta), said: "All the people out in Florida who were due to return this weekend have been contacted.

"Some have been evacuated to other areas, others are remaining where they are. They are being looked after, being given food and welfare."

She said tour operators had been busy arranging possible rescue charter flights home on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.

"There are no flights to and from Orlando on Saturday and there may not be any on Sunday," she added.

Virgin Atlantic cancelled a total of 28 flights from Friday to Sunday, affecting about 9,000 passengers.

Between them Thomas Cook and British Airways have been forced to cancel 20 flights from a number of UK airports to Florida.

Refund

Virgin has suspended its five daily routes from London's Gatwick and Heathrow airports and Manchester airport, as well as the 14 daily flights arriving back from Florida.

It has advised concerned passengers who booked directly with the company to phone 08705 747747, and are offering the option of a refund or rebooking.

A Virgin spokesman said: "It is our intention to carry passengers to their destination at the earliest opportunity, after the airport is reopened and the local infrastructure is safe."

BA has cancelled 14 flights over the three-day period which will affect around 3,000 passengers departing and arriving at Heathrow, Gatwick, Miami and Orlando.

Action taken

On Friday the UK carrier also had to redirect two flights to and from the Caribbean because of the hurricane.

Concerned passengers can call 08708 509850 or check its website for information on its flights - they can either get a refund or rebook their flight.

Passengers in Florida have been told that if they can reach another major eastern US airport they can fly to the UK at no extra cost.

Other carriers have taken similar action, with MyTravel Airways also suspending flights to Orlando airport from UK airports.

Evacuated

The tour operator has set up a helpline on 01706 909050 and holidaymakers can rebook, obtain a refund or rearrange a holiday elsewhere.

On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of Florida residents were spending a second day away from home as they waited for Hurricane Frances to hit the coast.

Some 2.5m people were told to leave their homes as the second major storm in less than a month approached.





SEE ALSO:
In pictures: Hurricane Charley
16 Aug 04  |  In Pictures
US hurricane victims face turmoil
17 Aug 04  |  Americas
Florida begins hurricane clean-up
16 Aug 04  |  Americas


RELATED BBC LINKS:

RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific