An Angus couple are among thousands of holidaymakers desperately awaiting evacuation from Cuba after being caught up in the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Irma.
Nicole Wilson and boyfriend Ryan Fleming flew into the unfolding natural disaster a week ago, only to be immediately told not to unpack at their hotel on the north east of the paradise island.
Instead, they found themselves in a fleet of buses under police escort ferrying holidaymakers away from the path of the hurricane, and the 20-year-olds are now in limbo as they await news of when they will be able to return home to their anxious families in the UK.
Tour operator Thomas Cook is executing an evacuation plan to bring more than 2,000 customers back from Cuba and has said it will be sending additional staff to help deal with the operation after coming under fire for a lack of information about the plight of affected holidaymakers.
Nicole, from Kirriemuir and Ryan, of Forfar were originally bound for Sol Cayo Guillermo, which sustained severe damage after falling in the path of the hurricane.
Instead, they were taken to the safety of Varadero, hundreds of kilometres north west, but were still forced to spend a terrifying night locked in their bathroom as the storm raged towards the US on its path of devastation.
Nicole’s mum, Heather said: “The main thing is that they are safe and they are fine, but it has just been a nightmare for them.
“We have been there twice as a family with Nicole, but this was their first trip there together.
“There have been difficulties getting information but obviously it has been an unprecedented situation and all we want now is to just get them home safely and as soon as possible, but we still don’t know for sure when that will be.”
“When they arrived at their hotel they were told straight away that the company were looking at an evacuation plan and they were nine hours on the bus to Varadero.
“We lost contact with them for a while and it was just awful not knowing what was going on.”
She added: “Nicole’s heart is now breaking for the people there.
“They are so friendly and we have loved going to Cuba previously, and now she is seeing families who have been left with nothing yet they are still wanting to do anything they can to help the holidaymakers there.
“The weather has passed and it is nice there now, but there is nothing they can do.
“Stuff is strewn everywhere and they say it is like a scene from a disaster movie.
“Everyone just goes down in the morning and they wait for news of what might be happening and when they will be getting home,” added Heather.
“The people there are going to take so long to recover from this and it is just terrible to see what has happened.
“There’s been a lot of frustration but we just want them home,” said Mrs Wilson.