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Ash chaos leaves islanders stranded

THE ONGOING disruptions in air travel have left many islanders stranded all over the world.

With the volcanic ash chaos likely to continue well into the week, people will have to dish out thousands of pounds to pay for alternative travel arrangements.

The chairman of Shetland Amenity Trust, Brian Gregson, might not be able to arrive back in the isles before 27 April, after getting stuck in Kuala Lumpur, where he attended the 4th international UNESCO conference on Geoparks (IGC) in Langkawi.

Ironically, Mr Gregson was in Malaysia to promote Shetland’s unique geology, which was formed many hundreds of millions of years ago by the same powers that has now thrown air travel into chaos.

In a short interview, carried out via text message, Mr Gregson said that he had been able to book a flight to Dubai for Sunday (yesterday) after his original flight on Thursday night had been cancelled.

Once in Dubai he might have to wait until 27 April until a seat on a flight back into the UK becomes available.

“I may try to get a flight to somewhere in Europe and then continue travel overland,” he said.

Meanwhile, Vidlin couple Tony and Helen Erwood and their grown up son Christopher with girlfriend Kirsteen Mullay are due to arrive back in Shetland on Monday morning, four days later than planned.

Speaking from London at the weekend, Mr Erwood said his family had been travelling from Tenerife via Madrid to London on Wednesday to catch a connection home the following day when the blanket ban on air travel was imposed.

Fortunately they had a hired car and hotel accommodation which they were able to extend, before deciding to use the car to drive to Aberdeen and board the NorthLink ferry to Lerwick, on Sunday night.

Mr Erwood reckoned the delays will have cost them at least an extra £800 in car hire, extra hotel nights plus food.

“It is all very frustrating but nobody’s fault, really. You could say it is an act of nature.

“I guess we will now have to fight with British Airways to get our money for the flights back. They should refund passengers as it is their risk.”

Mrs Erwood, a pharmaceutical consultant, said the costs she incurred in lost business were significant.

She said she had a business meeting with a client in Sweden on Tuesday which she was unlikely to be able to attend.

“I really haven’t counted the cost yet and am more concerned with making alternative arrangements,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, SEPA, continues to analyse samples from the ash plume.

A spokesman said that readings from Scotland’s air quality and radioactivity monitoring networks continued to be normal, with no areas for concern.

Fair Isle weatherman Dave Wheeler said he was taking rain water samples for SEPA, adding that on Saturday volcanic ash had fallen on his observation instruments.

“Within the metscreen I found some greyish black deposits. We had some rain which blows into the screen, dries out and leaves the ash behind. There is certainly ash being brought down in the rain drops.

“It obviously needs to be tested, but I am pretty certain that its origins are to be volcanic,” he said.

 

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