Stansted crash: Christmas break put on hold for stranded passengers

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STANSTED AIRPORT was closed last night and all flights suspended, stranding thousands of passengers waiting to fly out for Christmas breaks.

Some 44 incoming flights and more than 5,000 passengers were diverted to other British airports including Luton, Cambridge and Birmingham, after the Korean Air Boeing 747 cargo plane crashed.

On the M11, where drivers saw a fireball as the plane exploded and crashed in nearby fields, traffic was still flowing, but junction 8 of the motorway was shut for some time.

Homes in the Hatfield Forest area were believed to have escaped damage although the accident took out power lines, leaving about 300 households in darkness. After intermittent power cuts in Hallingbury, firemen warned they may have to cut off electricity supplies. But power was due to be restored to all but two homes within a couple of hours.

At Stansted, passengers were left milling around after being told to wait for further information. Announcements initially told them that the disruption was caused by a "local incident". It compounded a day of disruption for passengers, hundreds of whom had already been delayed by up to six hours.

Frances McKay, 28, from London, a saleswoman for a coffee-maker company, should have flown to Prestwick with Ryanair at 1.05pm. "I've been here since noon. There were a series of delays and then we were told that the airport was closed," said Miss McKay. "Ryanair has not given us any information and it has been unavailable to talk to us and we are just waiting to find out what is going on. I'm supposed to be heading back to Scotland to spend Christmas and New Year with my family."

An airport spokeswoman said it was unclear when normal service would resume. "It's standard procedure following an incident like this for the airport to close," she said.