Brits caught in Canary Islands sandstorm forced to sleep on boxes in airport

Disabled passengers slept in their wheelchairs and on ripped up Burger King boxes on the floor after a huge sandstorm grounded flights out of the Canary Islands.

Dust clouds stretching hundreds of miles moved across the Spanish islands yesterday, causing 230 flights to be stuck on the runways and a further 19 to be diverted.

Hundreds of Brits trying to get home after a half term getaway found themselves stuck in Tenerife South airport overnight on Sunday.

After spending five hours on an aircraft stuck on the runway, Vince Parish and his fellow passengers were made to leave the Jet2 plane and head back to the terminal.

Four other planes were emptied at the same time, triggering mayhem in the departures lounge as stranded holiday-makers tried to work out what to do.


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Families with children were dealt with by staff and given accommodation first.

Hundreds of others, including multiple people with chronic illnesses and physical disabilities, were left to sleep on the sparse airport floor.

Vince, a school technician, told Mirror Online: "We thought we were going to get accomodation.

"They kept saying 'we'll sort you out' and all the while prices of local hotels were going up.

"In the early hours of the morning there were children asleep on floor and hanging over luggage cart.


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"We had one cup of water each. No food. No bedding of any description.

"There was a disabled man who slept in his wheelchair. There was a disabled lady who was in mobility scooter.

"A lady with cystic fibrosis and a woman who had fibroid myolysis who both slept on the floor.

"I couldn't understand why they weren't prioritising these people with health conditions."

At 4am – 16 hours after he was due to fly out of Tenerife – Vince and his fellow passengers were given an €8 (£6.70) meal voucher.

They queued at the one cafe in the airport for an hour and a half, eventually coming away with chips and a beer just before the alcohol ran out.

At this point Vince and his wife Micki decided to find something to sleep on.

"My wife had the bright idea of breaking into Burger King, which had run out of food, to take all their chairs and cardboard boxes," the 58-year-old from Shrewsbury explained.

"We broke up the boxes and put them on the floor. There was no furniture in the arrivals hall apart some bench seats and no blankets.

"The Red Cross arrived while the TV cameras were then and then disappeared. There was nothing.

"It's been diabolical."

With most of the particulates in the air having cleared as of Monday afternoon, flights started to leave the island.

Vince was hoping to be on a plane back to the UK at around 4.30pm today.

Many others will have to wait a whole day until they can get on board a flight because their connecting plane had been unable to land yesterday.

A spokesperson for Jet2 said: “Like all airlines operating to the Canary Islands, the adverse and changeable conditions affecting the whole area since the weekend have resulted in flights experiencing delays or having to be diverted to other airports.

"We have been working very hard to arrange accommodation for customers affected by these unforeseen delays, but despite our best efforts we were unable to source suitable accommodation for some customers at such short notice.


"We would like to apologise to all affected customers for any inconvenience caused by these extraordinary circumstances, which are completely beyond our control.

"Our teams are working tirelessly to look after customers and to get everyone to their intended destination as soon as possible.

"For the most up to date flight information, we advise customers to visit our website."

In aerial images taken yesterday, the storm can be seen stretching across the ocean from the Moroccan coast before reaching the Canary Islands.

Other images showed runways at airports across the islands shrouded in dust, with many travellers wearing masks to help with their breating.

Yesterday shipping traffic has also been suspended around the islands and authorities in some parts have issued a red alert for people to stay indoors – especially those with respiratory problems.

Further disruption in Tenerife and Gran Canaria was also being caused by a number of fires which have broke out.

The Canary president said: "We are under the influence of four phenomena with the alert for strong winds, the calima, coastal phenomena and forest fires.

"All the mechanisms required by the protocol have been activated. We have had fires in Gran Canaria in two municipalities and in six municipalities in Tenerife.

"We have a direct thread with the two Presidents of the Cabildos and 90 members of the UME (Emergency Military Unit) and 100 Civil Guard agents in Gran Canaria, and another 100 and more than 50 of the UME in Tenerife are working.

"In addition, there are more than 90 troops prepared in Seville to move to the islands if the situation worsens."

"The wind has caused the worst of the fires, in addition to the temperature rise in the calima. All the operations have been terrestrial due to the difficulties to operate by air for the calima. The level of both fires is 1 at the moments.

"We hope that this condition does not increase in the two islands."

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