Hurricane Floyd:Thousands of British tourists evacuated from danger areas

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The Independent Online
THOUSANDS OF British tourists were among the estimated one million people evacuated inland yesterday as one of the worst hurricanes this century bore down on America's eastern seaboard.

Hurricane Floyd was expected to hit Florida early today, having already caused devastation in the Bahamas. A spokeswoman for Florida's tourist office said: "The coast is bound to get very high winds and UK tourists in the Orlando area inland are being kept informed.

"This is a bad hurricane, but Florida has great experience of handling these kind of emergencies. Everyone will be looked after. No one will be abandoned."

Most British operators were evacuating their coastal customers 60 miles inland to Orlando, where many of the 25,000 to 30,000 Britons were already on holiday.

Airlines cancelled flights in and out of the state yesterday. Virgin Holidays, the largest British operator in the area, had already flown some customers home yesterday along with evacuations from the Bahamas.

"All our customers from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Vero, Daytona and Cocoa beaches have been evacuated to Orlando," Naomi Lewis, of Virgin Holidays, said. "It is quite unlikely that it will affect Orlando. If it did we would evacuate on planes, if there were any flights on other carriers, or bus them out. Hopefully it won't come to that."

British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Airtours were among those who cancelled flights to Florida yesterday. Travellers who had not received earlier warnings were said to have behaved with "good grace" when they were turned away from airports having been offered refunds.

Thomson Holidays and First Choice, which both have flights due later this week, were monitoring the situation. "No decision has yet been made about these flights," said a spokeswoman for Thomson.

She added: "Our holidaymakers in the Orlando area have all been given letters advising them of the hurricane threat and giving them contact numbers of all our people out there. In addition, our reps have been touring hotels telling clients what is happening."

A Foreign Office spokesman said last night: "We are advising British people to monitor the local news and weather which will have any information and advice from local authorities who, of course, know best in these situations."

The industry insisted there were no plans to cancel holidays to hurricane areas.

Florida, which attracts approximately one million British tourists annually, suffers from storms during the September-to-November hurricane season yet it remains a popular destination for British holidaymakers with an eye for a bargain.