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Thomas Cook, UK-based travel firm, collapses

Thomas Cook, UK-based travel firm, collapses
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178-year-old group leaves 6 lakh tourists stranded around the world

London: British travel firm Thomas Cook collapsed into bankruptcy on Monday, leaving some 600,000 holidaymakers stranded and sparking the UK's biggest repatriation since World War II.

The 178-year-old debt-plagued group, which had struggled against fierce online competition for some time and blamed Brexit uncertainty for a recent drop in bookings, failed to secure 200 million pounds ($250 million, 227 million euros) from private investors and collapsed in the early hours.

Monday's bankruptcy, which followed a lengthy period of chronic financial turmoil after a disastrous 2007 merger deal, left some 600,000 tourists stranded worldwide according to Thomas Cook, while its 22,000 staff are now out of a job.

The British government launched emergency plans to bring some 150,000 UK holidaymakers back home from destinations including Bulgaria, Cuba, Turkey and the United States.

Thomas Cook said in a statement that "despite considerable efforts", it was unable to reach an agreement between the company's stakeholders and proposed new money providers.

"The company's board has therefore concluded that it had no choice but to take steps to enter into compulsory liquidation with immediate effect," it added.

The long-troubled group has also been blighted by enormous costs arising from its disastrous 2007 merger with MyTravel, a deal which left it plagued with huge levels of debt.

The UK government said on Monday that it had hired planes to fly home British tourists, in a mass repatriation plan codenamed Operation Matterhorn which began immediately.

Launching Britain's "largest repatriation in peacetime history", Transport Secretary Grant Shapps added that the government and UK Civil Aviation Authority had hired dozens of charter planes to fly home Thomas Cook customers.

"All customers currently abroad with Thomas Cook who are booked to return to the UK over the next two weeks will be brought home as close as possible to their booked return date," the government said.

Both a tour operator and an airline, the travel giant's key destinations were in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, but it offered also holidays in Asia, North Africa and the Caribbean.

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