20/04/2010

Liner Joins Navy In Stranded Britons Rescue

The first of three Royal Navy war ships has set sail to rescue Britons stranded by volcanic ash air delays.

HMS Albion came alongside at Santander today in northern Spain and started loading about 250 troops and 200 civilians to take them back to the UK, the Ministry of Defence said.

The troops, who are returning home after serving in Afghanistan, include soldiers from 3rd Battalion The Rifles, members of the RAF and medics.

HMS Albion, an amphibious landing ship based at Devonport Naval Base in Plymouth, is expected to arrive back in Portsmouth on Wednesday.

Another two Navy vessels, aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal and commando helicopter carrier HMS Ocean, have also been deployed to rescue stranded British travellers from the Continent.

Government officials are due to announce where they will dock later.

Meanwhile a new £500m luxury cruise ship has put its celebrations on hold to travel to Spain where it will also pick up stranded tourists.

The 122,000-tonne Celebrity Eclipse, which boasts its own grass lawn, is due to leave Southampton this evening en route to Bilbao.

The luxury vessel was to be in port before a two-day launch cruise on Thursday, but the crisis caused by the Iceland volcanic eruption changed plans.

It is thought that tour operators requested the voyage to pick up around 2,000 stranded Britons desperate to get home.

Flights into and out of the UK have been suspended since Thursday after a volcanic eruption in Iceland.

Air traffic control body Nats said airspace above parts of northern England would be open from 1pm to 7pm to allow some flights.

But there will be no flights before 7pm for the rest of England.

(LB/GK)

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