A couple from Skegness waiting to fly home from The Gambia say they have ‘never been so scared as what we are now’.
Alan Cupitt and his partner Gill Thomas have contacted The Skegness Standard as they await a flight from the west African nation.
We have been to many countries but have never been so scared as what we are nowHolidaymaker Alan Cupitt
Thousands of UK holidaymakers are set to be flown home from The Gambia due to growing political unrest.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is warning against ‘all non-essential travel’ due to potential military intervention following presidential elections last month.
Alan and Gill flew out to The Gambia on January 6 for three weeks - but are cutting their holiday short.
Alan told The Standard: “The last few days the locals have become very subdued, not so smiley as they normally are, many locals are fleeing the country to Senegal.
“There is more army presence than normal. Last night we went to change some currency but all the exchange places were closed on government orders apparently, the shops have closed and restaurants are closing. The streets were in darkness and an army personnel told us to return to our hotel for our own safety.
“We went to see the Thomas Cook rep at the hotel next door - it was chaos, people crying, others angry or confused as no one really knows what is happening.”
He added: “We have been to many countries but have never been so scared as what we are now.”
With fears the main international airport could be shut at short notice Thomas Cook is laying on additional flights from the capital Banjul today (Wednesday) to bring 985 package trip customers home.
An additional 2,500 ‘flight-only’ customers will then be contacted and offered the earliest possible flights back to the UK.
The action comes after Gambian President Yahya Jammeh declared a state of emergency after refusing to hand power to opposition leader Adama Barrow, who won last month’s election.
Regional leaders have threatened to intervene with military force if Mr Jammeh does not step down by a deadline later this week.
The Association of British Travel Agents estimates there are around 2,000 people on holiday with its members in The Gambia and more will have travelled there independently.
British tourists on package holidays in the country were told to contact their tour operator to arrange return flights and independent travellers should contact their airlines.
An FCO spokesman said: “The potential for military intervention and civil disturbance is high and could result in Banjul International Airport being closed at short notice.”