DOVER • British holidaymakers spent hours sweating in their cars as 15-hour queues snaked back from the port of Dover on Sunday due to heightened entry checks by French border police.
Stationary vehicles tailed back up to 19km inland from Dover, on England's south-eastern tip. The peak summer getaway season, and what Dover port officials said was a lack of French border control staff, combined with the increased security to create the mammoth queues. Dover is Britain's main ferry port to continental Europe, with Calais in north-eastern France 33km away across the Channel.
A multiple sclerosis sufferer headed to Germany for stem cell treatment was among those forced to spend the night in their vehicles.
What should have been a straightforward journey to Dover turned into a 20-hour ordeal for 50-year-old Ms Tanya Cudworth, who was travelling to a Frankfurt clinic. "Nineteen hours in the car has obviously aggravated my symptoms," she told the Press Association news agency. "During the day it was so hot and there was nowhere near enough water and at night... you couldn't sleep because you had to keep moving forward.
"We didn't get any water until 3am and I saw women with babies, young families and people with pets with no water. It's shocking that more wasn't done to get it to people," she complained.
The Dover port authorities said French border control booths had been "seriously understaffed overnight". British border officials were drafted in to help their French colleagues.
"We recognise the security pressures that French law enforcement organisations are under at Dover," said a British government spokesman. "There has been extraordinary disruption in the Dover area today, but safety is paramount."
Highways England, which runs the road network, said the delays were due to "heightened security checks to keep the travelling public safe following the recent attacks in France". By 5pm on Sunday (12am yesterday Singapore time), the local Kent police force said traffic had returned to normal levels.