Page last updated at 18:46 GMT, Thursday, 11 September 2008 19:46 UK

'We have to get there somehow'

By Victoria Bone
BBC News, St Pancras International

Albert Cole and Clive Evans, stranded at St Pancras
Albert Cole and Clive Evans were trying to make other plans by phone

There were scenes of chaos and frustration at St Pancras International after all Eurostar services to and from London were cancelled because of a fire in the Channel Tunnel.

None were more desperate though than Raj and Kundan's Desai's party. They and more than 30 others were meant to be travelling to Paris for a wedding on Friday lunchtime.

Among them was the groom himself.

While he clutched a phone to his ear in the hope of tracking down alternative transport, Mrs Desai told the BBC News website: "We simply have to get there somehow.

"We can't miss it. The bride is there, the groom is here, we have to find a way."

Mr Desai, from London, said: "Are Eurostar going to pay though? They should. If we have to hire cars or fly or get the ferry, we should get the money back."

Their friend, Kelvin Wheatcroft, said: "We thought about going to Dover, but apparently we can't go as foot passengers - we need a vehicle.

"What we need is a coach, for 33 of us, but a lot of companies will probably be closed now.

"It's a nightmare."

'Not enough booths'

Long lines of passengers hoping to transfer their tickets gradually morphed into mammoth queues for the hotels desk.

Among those waiting to get to the front was Odette Bellemans. She and her husband were supposed to travel home to Brussels.

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Traffic and passengers left waiting by Eurotunnel closure

"My husband doesn't like to fly so we booked the train, he thinks it's safer. Now all we want is a bed," she said.

"We've been in the queue for an hour to speak to someone. There aren't enough booths to help people."

Some passengers were ready to give up altogether. Genevieve Tronso travelled down from York and was hoping to visit friends in Paris.

"They're telling me, 'Don't even bother coming back here tomorrow. Just phone us.' What good is that?" she said.

"They keep saying, 'Your ticket is valid for 60 days', but I don't want it in 60 days, I need to travel now.

"It might be OK for people from London who can just go home, but what can I do? I think I will have to just go home to York."

Others like Viviane Thebault, from Paris, were sticking it out. She only came to London for one day to go shopping.

"Now I have to spend the night in a station," she said.

"I need to be first in the line in the morning, so I will stay here. I don't have any extra clothes or anything to lie on, but I hope they will keep the cafes and shops open later."

Sitting forlornly on the station steps, she added: "I certainly won't forget this trip."

'Total chaos'

Clive Evans and Albert Cole were meant to travel to Brussels to stay with a friend for a week.

Cancellation board at St Pancras
Stranded passengers were told to come back in the morning

Instead, they were, like many others, glued to the telephone, searching for another way to travel.

They almost did get out - getting as far as Ashford in Kent on the 14.34 Eurostar - before being turned back when the fire broke out.

"It's total chaos," Mr Evans said.

"They say they cant put us up in hotels because there's too many of us. Total disorder."


SEE ALSO
Channel Tunnel shut after blaze
11 Sep 08 |  Europe

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