Hur­ri­cane Ike night­mare of hol­i­day pair

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - News - by Mike Ben­nett mben­nett@thek­m­group.co.uk

AN ASH­FORD cou­ple who say they had to en­dure the “hol­i­day from hell” are fight­ing for com­pen­sa­tion from their hol­i­day com­pany.

David and Jean War­ton from Friesian Way, Ken­ning­ton, claim that First Choice hol­i­days failed to warn them of an­tic­i­pated dan­ger of an ap­proach­ing hur­ri­cane on their dream hol­i­day to Cuba.

They were booked with an­other cou­ple of friends from Cliftonville to re­turn to the hol­i­day par­adise ho­tel they had en­joyed two years pre­vi­ously.

But when the quar­tet ar­rived they dis­cov­ered other hol­i­day com­pa­nies had pulled out cus­tomers as the Cuban gov­ern­ment had is­sued dam­age dan­ger warn­ings as the is­land awaited the ar­rival of Hur­ri­cane Ike.

De­spite protests they were told to pre­pare for the worst by stay­ing in their rooms and bar­ri­cad­ing the win­dows with mat­tresses.

Mr War­ton, 70, said: “It was a night­mare and we were just told we would have to ride out the storm for how­ever long it lasted.

“It was hor­rific with 120mph gales gust­ing to 180mph that ripped up all the palm trees and tiles. Roof tim­bers were fly­ing like ar­rows and leav­ing the build­ing pock-marked as if it was a war zone.

“We were fright­ened and suf­fered for days un­til the Cuban army ar­rived and we even­tu­ally got out.” Now Mr War­ton has lodged a com­plaint with First Di­rect where he booked the allinclu­sive hol­i­day with pre­mium flight seats at £1,500 each.

But the hol­i­day com­pany has dis­missed Mr War­ton’s claims say­ing it did ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to evac­u­ate hol­i­day­mak­ers as the hur­ri­cane ap­proached.

Mr War­ton said: “Af­ter the Cuban gov­ern­ment is­sued a red alert other com­pa­nies moved peo­ple out to al­ter­na­tive des­ti­na­tions like the Do­mini­can Repub­lic.

“We re­alise that this was an act of God, but they could have made al­ter­na­tive ar­range­ments. All they seem pre­pared to do is of­fer com­pen­sa­tion for the four days that we missed of our hol­i­day as it was cut short and we were brought home.”

Evac­u­ate

First Choice spokes­woman Grace Jones said: “Through­out the du­ra­tion of Hur­ri­cane Ike, the safety of cus­tomers and staff was of para­mount im­por­tance and our re­sort teams did ev­ery­thing in their power to en­sure the well­be­ing of our cus­tomers.

“The pre­dicted path of Hur­ri­cane Ike was tracked for a num­ber of days. As soon as the tracking of the hur­ri­cane in­di­cated it was to travel to­wards Cuba, the Cuban au­thor­i­ties ac­ti­vated hur­ri­cane pro­ce­dures, but un­for­tu­nately in this in­stance it was not pos­si­ble to evac­u­ate by air in time.

“Of all the re­sort ar­eas in Cuba, the Hol­guin re­gion was the most af­fected by the hur­ri­cane. All cus­tomers hol­i­day­ing in this area were flown out on res­cue flights.

“As with all tour op­er­a­tors in this sit­u­a­tion, First Choice’s terms and con­di­tions state no obli­ga­tion to pro­vide com­pen­sa­tion if changes made to a hol­i­day are due to a ‘Force Ma­jeure’.

“How­ever, as some cus­tomers had to cur­tail their hol­i­day in Cuba to re­turn home, First Choice took the de­ci­sion to pro­vide them with a re­fund for pro­rata, missed nights’ ac­com­mo­da­tion as a ges­ture of good­will.”

Pic­ture Gary Browne pd1492208

David and Jean War­ton who were caught in Hur­ri­cane Ike while on hol­i­day in Cuba

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