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Llanelli residents affected by Thomas Cook collapse

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MANY people from Llanelli have been adversely affected by the collapse of Britain’s oldest travel firm.

Founded in Market Harborough in 1841 by businessman Thomas Cook, the company organised railway outings for members of the local temperance movement. 178 years later, it had grown to a huge global travel group, with annual sales of £9bn, 19 million customers a year and 22,000 staff operating in 16 countries.

But all that came to an end on Monday (Sept 23), the Civil Aviation Authority announced that Thomas Cook was to cease trading.

Sheree Jenkins’ family, Thomas Cook customers, are left stranded out in Turkey with no end in sight to their troubles. Speaking to the Herald, she said ”My family are in Turkey, my partner and 3 kids, and are due home Thursday but no flights are labelled as ‘go ahead’.

“8 days into the holiday and being told to pay £1170 to stay in the hotel or they will be kicked out. They are ATOL protected but feel they have no help at all and no one cares for them. They had already paid £3588 for the holiday and the children are distressed and crying.

“We are so stressed it’s unreal, my children are currently sitting outside with tears running down their faces absolutely heartbroken because we have been thrown out. The sun is beaming on us all in 32-degree heat .

“If it was me and my partner, I wouldn’t care but my kids are distraught and so stressed here along with heartbroken. All they want to do is go home and never want to go on holiday again.

“With this being our first family holiday too hearing that from my kids has made me feel absolutely terrible. It is a disgrace”.

The modern Thomas Cook was in stark contrast to what the company used to be. The firm’s fate was sealed by a number of factors including financial, social and even meteorological issues.

As well as weather issues – a super hot summer meaning people were more likely to have a staycation – and stiff competition from online travel agents and low-cost airlines, there were other disruptive factors, including political unrest around the world and many holidaymakers had become used to putting together their own holidays and not using travel agents’ package deals.

In May, Thomas Cook reported a £1.5bn loss for the first half of its financial year, with £1.1bn of the loss caused by the decision to write down the value of My Travel, the business it merged with back in 2007.

It is believed that Brexit was also a key factor in the disruptions with customer bookings as they awaited the fate of their country’s travel policies.

The airline company was then forced to be put up for sale in the hope that they could attain some much-needed funds to keep the company afloat.

Surprisingly, the airline company had seemed to have acquired a deal with Chinese company Fosun but the creditor banks issued a last-minute demand that the company find an extra £200m which proved too costly in the end to find a solution for Thomas Cook.

The Government was asked for a bailout of £250m, which was denied.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said this on the Today programme: “I fear it would have kept them afloat for a very short period of time and then we would have been back in the position of needing to repatriate people in any case. The company’s large debts and High Street-focused business made it a poor candidate for survival”.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said the company had “ceased trading with immediate effect” and it has also triggered the biggest ever peacetime repatriation, aimed at bringing more than 150,000 British holidaymakers’ home.

The tour operator’s failure puts 22,000 jobs at risk worldwide, including 9,000 in the UK and many from Pembrokeshire.

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Tip off leads to pensioner’s drug stash

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A BRIEFCASE full of drugs has been recovered during a raid in Swansea suburb.
Police acting on information provided by a member of the public executed a warrant in Gorseinon and recovered a large quantity of cannabis.
A man was arrested on suspicion of possession of the class B drug, with intent to supply.
A South Wales Police spokesman said: “At around 5.40pm on Wednesday, January 6, following an intelligence led operation, a 68 year-old man from Gorseinon was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply cannabis.
“He was taken to Swansea central police station for questioning. He has been released under investigation”.

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New Year – new start – for two seals released back into the wild

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Two grey seal pups have been returned to the wild for the New Year following months of RSPCA rehabilitation.

They were released at Port Eynon, Gower, Swansea, on 3 January as the sun rose – just days into 2021 – by  RSPCA animal rescue officer Ellie West and RSPCA inspector Keith Hogben – who caught the beautiful event on camera. One seal had been originally rescued from Abereiddy in Pembrokeshire – the other from Trevone in Cornwall. They were both found in distress, underweight and with injuries.

Ellie said: “This was such a lovely release – to see them both enter the sea happily where they belong with the sun rising in the distance was just glorious. It was a lovely way to start the new year.”

The seals had been transferred to the Welsh coast from RSPCA Mallydams Wood Wildlife Centre in Hastings the previous day and had spent the night at the RSPCA Llys Nini Branch seal unit.

“These two pups – nicknamed BB8 and Luke Skywaker – have been in the fantastic care of RSPCA Mallydams Wood Wildlife Centre who have given them the best rehabilitation over the past few months. It’s always fantastic to hear when they have put on the appropriate weight and can be released back into the wild,” added Ellie.

Ellie had been involved in the initial care of the seal rescued from Abereiddy Beach back in October.

“He was a weaned pup that had pretty much moulted out all his baby white lanugo coat, so he was fully weaned, but he was found quite underweight, lethargic and had the snotty face of a sickly pup,” she said. “He also had a lump on the top of his neck.

“He was reported to myself and Keith and we asked Welsh Marine Life Rescue (WMLR) to attend who very kindly collected him and cared for him for a few days until we were able to transfer him to the wildlife centre.

“Once again we want to thank WMLR for all their assistance, expertise and all their hard work this past season. We could not do what we do without them.”

At RSPCA Mallydams Wood Wildlife Centre the seal had the lump removed under anaesthetic by the vet team.

The second seal from Cornwall came into RSPCA care in November and weighed just 16.3kg. The seal had suffered a few small wounds and was a bit wheezy, with centre staff treating him for lungworm and administering antibiotics. When he left the centre the seal – who was named Luke Skywalker – weighed a healthy 40kg.

Before release, the seals were given identification tags in their hind flippers for ID purposes. The RSPCA often receives good feedback from sightings – and the scientific results received reveal that seals that go on from rehabilitation survive in the wild.

The RSPCA advises that if members of the public spot a seal on a beach that they think might need help, the best thing is to observe them from a distance and do not approach them.

Seals are wild animals and have a nasty bite. Never try to return a seal to water yourself, as you may put yourselves and the seal at risk by doing this. It is also advised they keep dogs away from any seal and keep them on leads on beaches that have seal colonies too.

It’s not unusual for a seal pup to be alone, as seal mums leave their pups very early on in life. So if the seal pup looks fit and healthy and shows no signs of distress, it should firstly be monitored from a safe distance for 24 hours.

If you see a pup whose mother hasn’t returned within 24 hours, is on a busy public beach, or if you think the seal may be sick or injured, please stay at a safe distance and call the RSPCA’s advice and cruelty line on 0300 1234 999. An unhealthy seal pup looks thin (but not bony) with a visible neck, like a dog.

There is more information on the RSPCA website about what to do if you see a seal or pup on the beach alone.

If you have an animal welfare concern or find an animal in distress please call 0300 1234 999.

This winter, the RSPCA expects to rescue thousands of animals from neglect, cruelty and suffering. Already this Christmas we received more than 44,000 calls to our cruelty line but the calls to our rescue line are not stopping so neither will we. To help our rescue teams continue to reach the animals who desperately need us this winter, visit www.rspca.org.uk/xmas and Join the Winter Rescue #JoinTheRescue

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Community Midwife home for Christmas after 85 day battle with COVID-19

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SHARON GEGGUS, a community midwife from Llanelli is home for the holidays after a three month battle with coronavirus.
Sharon began to feel unwell in September, experiencing shortness of breath and a high temperature.
As these symptoms persisted and her condition began to worsen, she was admitted to Prince Philip Hospital in Llanelli on 16 September, with a temperature of 41°C.During her stay, she credits the support of her family and the staff at Prince Philip Hospital for helping her get through the ordeal. Speaking of her experience in hospital, Sharon says: “I was sedated for about five weeks, but I was told that the staff were playing music for me. They had contacted my family to find out what my favourite songs were, and they would play those.
“It was really hard but the hardest times I didn’t really know about – my family were the people going through it. I can’t stress how well the staff looked after me. I used the iPads provided through the hospital to keep in contact with my family and the staff would also help me phone and communicate with my family.  
“The ITU staff and the staff on Ward 9 where I went for rehabilitation were amazing. I’m a community midwife myself and I would obviously treat someone how I wanted to be treated – but they really went above and beyond.
They would sit and chat with me when I was feeling down and they made sure I was in contact with my family all the time, even letting me hang up pictures of my family on my wall.”
Sharon was clapped out of the hospital on 10 December, 85 days after being admitted. Even though she is home, the road to recovery isn’t over.
She says: “There’s still a long way to go but I’m getting there. I can get around using a walking frame and only need oxygen when I’m really moving about. It’s so nice to be home, I think you just sort of relax a bit and move around more and just feel better for being back with your family.”
Reflecting on her experience, Sharon offered this advice to others with COVID-19: “Keep in touch with your family as much as you possibly can, it’s what got me through. I wouldn’t really know what else to say, just keep positive and keep in touch with your loved ones, that’s what really helps.”
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