Monday, October 1, 2007

Maldives bomb couple win air ambulance fight

A British couple badly injured in the Maldives nailbomb attack will be flown by helicopter to a specialist burns unit in the UK today after a battle over who would cover their costs.

Christian Donelan and his wife, Jennifer, suffered severe burns after being caught in the terrorist attack in Male, the capital of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, on Saturday.

But they were temporarily left stranded as authorities argued over who would pay for emergency treatment.

Doctors at the Maldives hospital where Mr and Mrs Donelan are being treated told the couple they required plastic surgery and skin grafts urgently, but admitted they did not have the expertise to carry out the procedures.

An air ambulance was left on standby to fly the couple to a hospital in south Manchester, near the Wigan home of Mrs Donelan's parents, at a cost of £125,000.

But the family suffered a difficult day negotiating with an insurance company, the Maldives government and the Foreign Office over the cost of the flight.

The insurance firm, based in Qatar, where the couple live, originally claimed they would not cover "an act of terrorism" under their policy.

But last night the family said they had secured funding with the help of Foreign Office pressure.

Although not in a life threatening condition, Mrs Donelan has first degree and second degree burns covering up to 40 per cent of her body – including her face, hands and legs. Mr Donelan has 27 per cent burns.

A friend close to the couple said last night: "We were worried all day trying to secure the funds but it is great news that Christian and Jennifer are coming home."

Mr and Mrs Donelan, originally from Rotherham, South Yorks, were visited by British consular officials and the Maldives president, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The couple, who both work as sports events organisers, were married near Lake Como, Italy, two weeks ago.

They were on the last day of their honeymoon and had already packed their bags and checked out of their hotel when they were caught in the blast.

Twelve tourists in total were injured in the attack – the first of its kind on the islands.

The bombing is being widely linked to home-grown Islamist elements.

Around 60,000 British tourists travel to the Maldives each year.

Many of them are honeymooners and travel agents are now waiting to see if any holidaymakers decide to cancel planned trips as a result of the attack.

The Maldivian government moved swiftly to allay fears that a similar attack could be launched against tourists in one of the 87 islands which offer a "Robin Crusoe" experience to holidaymakers.

Resort operators contacted by The Daily Telegraph last night said holidaymakers had been briefed on the situation and decided to continue their stays.

The Foreign Office has updated its travel advice with a general statement about the "global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks" but said it had no plans to warn against travel to the Maldives.

Source: Telegraph

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