Travellers have been warned to ‘stay away’ from the town of Doncaster unless their journey is ‘absolutely necessary’ after the collapse of civil order threatened to plunge the region into anarchy.
And Foreign Office officials are desperately trying to find out if any Britons remain alive and uneaten in the town as they draw up plans for a dramatic evacuation.
NATO imposed military sanctions on Donny after the sinister disappearance of an ITV production team making a documentary about obesity just before the New Year.
Their remains have never been found, but for the last six weeks a humanitarian relief mission has seen hundreds of tons of sausage rolls, crisps and heavily-sugared tea dropped from C-130 transport planes over the ravaged Black Park area of Scawsby.
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“The picture on the ground is very confused,” says Yorkshire Red Cross spokesman Arnold Guthrie.
“It’s impossible to say for sure who is in control. All we know for sure is that some rudimentary form of feudal society has emerged, based on the exchange of fatty foods and outsize clothing.”
Communication with the south Yorkshire enclave has been intermittent since January, when the town hall’s ruling elite declared independence and seized control of the town’s Morrison’s supermarket following the collapse of an interim local government.
But since a rival faction stormed the town’s Wheatley Hall Road branch of Matalan and formed its own provisional administration, the troubled settlement has been torn apart.
Train travellers between Newcastle and King’s Cross have been alarmed by the sight of gross, shabbily-clad groups of men hunched on the station platform and shouting abuse at passing trains.
And truck drivers using the Doncaster North services on the M18 have been warned to keep their vehicles secure at all times against the stream of refugees desperate for any chance of escape.
A communique issued by the Matalanite faction has asserted its control over Doncaster’s dwindling supplies of elasticated jogging bottoms, and demanded the immediate re-opening of the strategic A19 bridge for deliveries to the town’s fifteen Gregg’s bakeries.
But the majority Morrisonite party has declared ominously that ‘not one warm Steak Bake in golden puff pastry’ will cross the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation until their sovereignty is recognised.
Relief organisations now fear an escalation of the conflict.
“Lessons have simply not been learned from past tragedies,” said a spokesman for baked-goods aid group Pasties Sans Frontieres.
“If the international community fails to intervene, we could be seeing a repeat of what happened in Hull.”