Rail services through the Channel Tunnel have been disrupted after migrants in France blocked tracks and climbed onto train roofs to try and reach Britain.
“There is no more electricity and we have been left in darkness”, said Geraldine Guyon, a passenger who has been stuck on a Eurostar train from Paris to London for several hours, adding that the heat in the carriage is becoming “unbearable”.
“We have not see the migrants, but we knew that they were everywhere on the roof and that’s why we waited for a helicopter to ensure there were no migrants above us”, she said, adding: “Passengers are not allowed to leave the station, except to take a taxi at the entrance”.
Services were scrapped because the presence of intruders thought to be migrants in the tunnel, Agence France-Presse said, citing an unidentified Eurostar spokesman.
Cazeneuve said nine people have died this year trying to make the crossing.
The company said the six trains affected overnight could carry up to 4,500 passengers but refused to reveal the exact number of commuters who faced disruption. Photos of a drowned toddler face down in the surf spread quickly across the Internet, yet another searing image from Europe’s worst migration crisis since the 1990s Balkan wars.
“Security forces intervened to clear the track once it had stopped, and that blocked the Eurostar that was travelling to London and the power had to be cut for safety reasons”, the SNCF spokesman said.
Michael Richardson, 45, was trying to get to his home in Swiss Cottage, north London, with his wife Beverley Paris and two-year-old son Michael. Police finally arrived at the scene just before midnight to remove the trespassers, who had been seen climbing on top of trains. Railroad staff “were scared that that if they opened the doors, the migrants might attempt to board the train – potentially putting the safety of those on board at risk”, according to the Daily Mail.
A Eurostar spokeswoman acknowledged it had been a frustrating time for passengers, and apologised for the inconvenience caused.
They had a reasonable expectation that their governments would protect them – and, for that matter, prevent the formation of a humanitarian crisis that would ultimately lead desperate people to think clambering onto the roof of a high-speed train was an acceptable strategy for reaching their desired migratory destination.
“The issue was there was no one from Eurostar who was taking responsibility at Calais, ” he said. “Tell people what the situation is and they will deal with it. But if you raise people’s expectations and then let them down they will get cross”.
The 11.13am Paris to London service was also cancelled.
Many passengers waited around an hour to be booked on to a train later today. The toilet by that time was so disgusting, it made me feel sick.