THREE Royal Navy ships have been deployed to rescue stranded Britons – including 500 soldiers – from Spain.
The Warship HMS Albion arrived in Santander and salvaged 200 soldiers who had been employed in Afghanistan, as well as 200 British nationals.
HMS Ark Royal and HMS Ocean have also made the trip south to aid the operation.
A new luxury cruise ship even cancelled its inauguration celebrations in the English Channel to come to the aid of marooned holidaymakers in Bilbao.
“The plan is to make sure that we use southern Spain as a hub for the return of British people.”
It came after Prime Minister Gordon Brown struck a deal with Spanish leader Jose Luis Zapatero to use Spain as a focal point for the return of Britons.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said: “The plan is to make sure that we use southern Spain as a hub for the return of British people.”
Spain has also agreed to open up landing slots for planes initially scheduled to go to Britain.
It is hoped that travellers can then take alternative transport to Britain, if not by the warships, then via ferry, train or coach.
Hundreds of thousands of people are stranded in Andalucia alone as a giant Icelandic ash cloud engulfed Europe.
Up to 1000 flights were cancelled in the region, and almost 100,000 were shelved across Europe creating travel chaos.