London News & Search
Two young women left stranded in the path of the devastating Hurricane Irma say they were told by holiday reps to weather the storm by “hiding in the bathroom”.
Sophie Collins, 22, was on a trip of a lifetime with friend Eleanor Reid, also 22, in the Dominican Republic.
But, days before they were due to return, they say they have been left alone to barricade themselves in their hotel bathroom in an attempt to avoid the devastating hurricane.
Their story emerged as the storm, believed to be the biggest in the Atlantic in years, hit a number of overseas British territories and tourists hotspots – sparking fears that thousands of Brits could be caught up in the destruction.
One London tourist Alex Woolfall, who was on St Martin, tweeted from his hotel yesterday: “May be my last tweet as power out and noise now apocalyptic.”
The family of Afiya, 27, who is six months pregnant, and Asha Frank, 29, are concerned for their safety and are desperately trying to get hold of them after power lines cut out.
Ilford-born Miss Collins, who is on holiday celebrating her graduation from Bournemouth Arts University, is hiding on the second floor of the Gran Ventana Beach Resort on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic.
Her mother, Lisa Trutwein, said coaches had arrived yesterday to collect the US and German tourist but that travel company Thomson told Miss Collins there were no planes available for British holidaymakers.
“I spoke to her and she is crying, petrified, hiding in the bath under a mattress,” Ms Trutwein told the Standard.
“She said she can hear the building creaking and said the sky had gone black. I could hear the winds from down the phone.
“I don’t know why they were not evacuated – it is just the British who were left there and they were told to take cover in the bathrooms. Thomson should be ashamed, they have had days to prepare for this.”
Ms Trutwein said her daughter says she asked why they could not be moved to a resort further in-land for safety ans the rep said they “would be leaving the resort at their own risk”.
“But the rep has gone inland to be with her family and left them there with only the hotel staff to help,” she said.
A Thomson spokeswoman told the Standard the company had been advised not to travel cross-country due to the storm. She added: “It is true that the rep did not stay at the hotel but that is because she has two young children.”
“The rep has spoken to the girls and they are okay. They have been told to stay in their rooms and they have had food delivered,” she said.
“The people who were collected yesterday would have been people who were already scheduled to leave – there has been no evacuation and the reason they could not be moved to a different resort is because we have been told not to ravel on the roads and we have to refer to the advice given by local authorities.”
Ms Trutwein said she had tried ringing the Thomson emergency number but had been told to look online for information and “pray for your daughter’s safe return”.
“I can’t breath, I have not slept,” she said. “I have just been reading and watching the coverage of how the hurricane devastated Barbuda – that place has been left uninhabitable now, it was completely flattened.”
According to Miss Collins, there were also families with young children staying at the resort.
The storm, which has reached wind speeds of 180mph, today hit Turks and Caicos today as well as the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas.
The UK Government said Irma inflicted “severe and in places critical” damage to Anguilla, which Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan said took the full force of the hurricane. He told MPs that the British Virgin islands have also suffered “severe damage”.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said in a statement: “I spoke last night to the Chief Minister of Anguilla, and offered our condolences for the loss of life and the damage that has been sustained in his country.
“Of course we’ve been in continual contact with those in the British Virgin Islands. I want to stress that this has been a very, very severe hurricane but we are responding with all the means at our disposal.”
A British naval ship has been deployed to help deal with the aftermath with 40 Royal Marines on board, as well as Army engineers and equipment, as authorities struggle to get aid to smaller islands.
A Thomson statement said: “The health and safety of our customers, crew and destination teams is our primary focus. Our experienced team of international reps in resort are supporting our customers in their hotels and we would advise that all customers in the destinations closely follow instructions from our teams and the hotel management at all times.
“Should customers in resort have any questions, they can speak to their holiday rep in the hotel or call us on our 24/7 holidayline on +44 3333 365 147 (or +353 1 5133401 for Irish customers).”
London News & Search