The government tonight launched an unprecedented plan to bring home an estimated 200,000 people stranded abroad by the volcanic ash cloud – including possible deployment of the Royal Navy – as European airlines staged a series of successful test flights and urged governments to reassess flying restrictions.
In a move rarely seen during a general election, Gordon Brown recalled senior cabinet members from the campaign trail to tackle the aviation crisis. On the steps of Downing Street the business secretary, Lord Mandelson, flanked by the foreign secretary, David Miliband, transport secretary, Lord Adonis, cabinet minister Tessa Jowell and security minister Lord West, unveiled a plan to repatriate UK residents. Government sources said around 200,000 Britons were in temporary exile, according to unofficial airline estimates.
The government measures include:
• Deploying the Royal Navy, cruise ships and commercial shipping to transport passengers to the UK if the crisis worsens.
• Using Spain, which is not yet affected by the eruption, as a dropping-off point for stranded air passengers before continuing their journey by train, coach or boat.
• Adonis meeting with all EU transport ministers via video-conference to consider the scientific evidence for establishing safe flight corridors through the ash.
• British consulate officials visiting key airports worldwide to advise passengers of their rights, including food and accommodation from EU-registered carriers.
Peter Mandelson: 'We need to get people home' | World news | The Guardian
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