Navy to help rescue stranded Britons

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Royal Navy vessels and a cruise ship are on their way to Europe to pick up stranded Britons.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that two Navy ships were to be used to help bring Britons home, with a third vessel also possibly being deployed.

A meeting of emergency planning committee Cobra, chaired by Mr Brown, was held late on Monday to discuss the latest updates on the volcanic ash cloud that has grounded passenger planes across Europe.

A Downing Street spokesman said the committee agreed the Government should "continue to do whatever it can" to return stranded Britons to the UK. Thousands of travellers are queuing for ferries in Calais and other European ports.

An MOD spokesman said HMS Albion was expected to arrive in Santander, Spain, later to collect UK service personnel who have recently returned from Afghanistan. HMS Ocean is on standby and HMS Ark Royal is sailing south from Scotland to provide further assistance as required.

The 122,000-tonne Celebrity Eclipse, which boasts is due to leave Southampton tomorrow evening en route to Bilbao. It is thought that tour operators requested the voyage to pick up around 2000 stranded Britons desperate to get home.

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