UPDATE 1-British travel firm Thomas Cook collapses, stranding hundreds of thousands

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LONDON, Sept 23 (Reuters) – Thomas Cook, the world’s oldest travel firm, collapsed on Monday, stranding hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers around the globe and sparking the largest peacetime repatriation effort in British history.

The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority said Thomas Cook had now ceased trading and the regulator would work with the government to bring the more than 150,000 British customers home over the next two weeks.

“Due to the significant scale of the situation, some disruption is inevitable, but the Civil Aviation Authority will endeavour to get people home as close as possible to their planned dates,” it said in a statement in the early hours of Monday.

“Thomas Cook has ceased trading so all Thomas Cook flights are now cancelled,” it said.

The firm runs hotels, resorts and airlines for 19 million people a year in 16 countries. It currently has 600,000 people abroad, forcing governments and insurance companies to coordinate a huge rescue operation.

Pictures posted on social media showed Thomas Cook planes being diverted away from the normal stands, and being deserted as soon as they had landed. (Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

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