Tourists flee as FG places Navy on standby to evacuate Nigerians from Gambia

By Olaolu Oladipo, Lagos with agency reports
Visiting tourists have started streaming out of The Gambia, leaving the small airport near Banjul struggling to handle extra flights.
Brian and Yvonne Souch, a couple from Witney in southern England, told AFP they were unaware of the potential risk of flying to the country 10 days ago and felt tour company Thomas Cook should have kept them better informed.
“We didn’t know anything until we came down for breakfast,” Brian Souch said, sitting in shorts and sleeveless T-shirt in the lobby of a hotel in the Kololi tourist strip as he awaited a bus to the airport.
Thomas Cook said in a statement Wednesday a programme of additional flights into Banjul airport would bring home the 1,000 package holidaymakers it has in The Gambia, followed by up 2,500 more at the “earliest possible flight availability”.
Holidaymakers were told that Thomas Cook flights would stop completely in a few days time, leaving them at risk of being stranded.
The Dutch travel firm TUI Nederland told AFP Tuesday it would repatriate “about 800” clients.
Some tourists were unfazed by the news as the state of emergency, however, as their countries have not issued travel alerts.
“We have over two weeks left and we are staying,” said Mariann Lundvall, who flew into Banjul to escape Finland’s freezing winter.
“If the Finnish government decides we go, then we go,” she added, but with a pained face added “the climate in Helsinki… it is so cold now!”
The panic caused by the state of emergency could prove devastating for the country’s economy, which experts say relies on tourism for up to 20 percent of the economy.
This coming just as the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on The Diaspora, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa allayed fears that Nigerians living in Gambia might be left stranded and unassisted if anything goes wrong.
She said via her twitter handle that “The Naval ship that left for Gambia will be on standby for evacuation”.
She also denied reports that a war ship has been deployed as she said it was sent to help evacuate Nigerians living in Gambia.

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