Tunisia death toll rises after terror attack on hotel

This story was last updated at 09.13am on Saturday, June 27.

At least 38 people were killed in an attack on a tourist hotel in the Tunisian town of Sousse, according to the Tunisian interior ministry.

Reuters reporters that the dead include British, German and Belgian holidaymakers, while the Irish government confirmed at least one Irish woman was killed.

Tunisia’s prime minister, Habib Essid, has reportedly said that the majority of those killed were British, although so far the UK government has officially confirmed the deaths of only five Britons while warning that the number was expected to rise.

Witnesses reported “gunshots on the beach” and “mass panic” during the attack outside and inside the Riu Imperial Marhaba hotel. It remains unclear how many gunmen were involved, but one is known to have been killed.

During the attack, news outlets and agencies spoke to British holidaymakers barricaded inside their hotel rooms who told of reports of armed men on the beach and who heard gunfire and an explosion.

A statement from the Foreign Office on Friday afternoon said: “Some attackers may still be at large. Any British nationals in these hotels or nearby should remain indoors, and contact their tour operator and the Foreign Office on the hotline number below. For security reasons they should not advertise their location on social media or when speaking to journalists.”

An Abta statement said: “Abta estimates that there are approximately 20,000 customers currently on holiday with Abta members in Tunisia but there will also be a number of holidaymakers who have travelled independently.

“The situation is still developing and we are liaising with our members, the Tunisian authorities and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office concerning the welfare of holidaymakers in Tunisia and the most appropriate actions to take.

“Holidaymakers in resort are advised to contact their tour operator and follow any instructions issued by local authorities. Those due to travel today and tomorrow should also contact their tour operator or airline. Those travelling at a later date are strongly advised to wait for further updates as phone lines are likely to be busy.”

A statement from Thomson and First Choice said: “Thomson and First Choice is aware of a reported terrorist incident in Tunisia.
We are working closely with our teams in Tunisia and the relevant authorities to determine exactly what has happened and provide assistance to those affected.”

A statement from Thomas Cook confirmed that it did not feature the affected hotels but was continuing to monitor the situation.

It said: “Thomas Cook is aware of the tragic events which occurred earlier today in Port el Kantaoui, Tunisia.

“We can confirm that the reported hotels are not offered by Thomas Cook, and that none of our customers or staff were in residence at the time of the incident. However, we do currently have customers staying in other parts of the resort, and our experienced teams on the ground are continuing to offer every support to them and their families at this difficult time.

“Thomas Cook would like to extend its most sincere condolences to the family and friends of those affected.”

Tunisia has been on high alert since March when Islamist militant gunmen attacked the Bardo museum in Tunis, killing a group of cruise passengers on a shore excursion.

The Foreign Office has advised anyone concerned about family or friends in Tunisia to call: 0207 008 1500
Thomson has advised anyone with concerns about friends and families to call: 0800 0885372 (in Ireland 1 800 550376).

Thomas Cook has set up a dedicated helpline for consumers on: 01733 224 536 and for travel agents on: 0800 916 0699.

It is offering customers the opportunity to cancel their holiday to Tunisia free of charge for those due to travel on Friday, June 26, Saturday 27 and Sunday 28. For those travelling from Monday, June 29, Cook is offering  to amend their bookings to Tunisia free of charge for holidays departing up to and including July 31, 2015.

A statement on the Monarch Airlines and Cosmos Holidays websites said the firms are closely monitoring the unfolding situation in Sousse.

“We will adhere to the advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and update customers in the event that the current advice changes,” it stated.

“As far as we are aware at the present time, no Cosmos or Monarch Holiday hotels are involved in this incident. A Monarch Airlines flight is due to depart from London Gatwick to Enfidha at 1530hrs today, returning into London Gatwick at 2225hrs this evening.

“Customers who booked directly through Monarch or Cosmos Holidays and are travelling on this flight, or to Tunisia within the next seven days, can choose not to travel and will be offered the choice of a change of date or destination. Any customers affected can call our customer service teams:  Monarch Customers: 0333 33 0 700 Cosmos Holidays Customers: 0333 777 4757

“For customers that have booked through a 3rd party tour operator we are advising that they contact their tour operator for advice as soon as possible.

“As we are still unaware of the full details of the situation, this advice is subject to change at short notice and regular updates will be issued.”

David Scowsill, president and chief executive of the World Travel & Tourism Council, which condemned the attack, said: “I would like to extend my deepest condolences to the families of all the victims of this brutal attack. Our thoughts are with them at this terrible time.
“It is it with deep regret that the world again has its eyes on Tunisia. This attack strikes at the heart of the country’s tourism industry, only three months after the callous attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunis in March 2015.
“Tunisia is a beautiful destination. Travel and tourism plays a pivotal role in the country’s economy, generating over 15% of the country’s GDP at around US$7.4 billion, and supporting nearly 14% of total employment in 2014.
“Tourism is a force for good in the world with its great economic and social benefits. It is important that travel organisations and travellers continue to support Tunisia, whilst the government takes appropriate measures on security.”

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