The Royal Mail mistakenly sent Christmas post bound for a south Atlantic British colony to Paraguay and the Caribbean, it emerged tonight.
Christmas presents worth thousands of pounds due for Ascension Island, which belongs to the British St Helena colony, were wrongly sent to Asuncion, the capital city of Paraguay.
To compound the error, mail due for Ascension’s major settlement, Georgetown, arrived thousand of miles away in Georgetown, Guyana.
It is understood that the islanders will still receive their mail but the process will be delayed by the low number of flights between the territories involved.
Post office bosses are in contact with the postal services in the areas involved.
A Royal Mail statement said: “We apologise that mail to customers in Ascension did not arrive in time for Christmas.
“We have taken steps to rectify this to ensure it will not happen in future.
“We apologise to customers whose mail was delayed.”
The company continues to investigate how the incident happened.
Islander Paul Knowles, a 29-year old IT consultant whose family hail from Barnsley, south Yorkshire, thought he was being extra careful when he began ordering presents from the internet in September.
The intention had been to have the presents delivered to Ascension before wrapping them and sending their gifts back to Britain.
Mr Knowles estimated that the total value of his misdelivered mail would be around £1,000 (€1,400).
He explained how his local post office kept in touch with the Royal Mail as people began to worry over the location of their post.
Speaking from the village of Two Boats in Ascension, Mr Knowles said: “First they (the Royal Mail) said it was held up and then they said there was a good chance it was actually sent to Paraguay or Guyana.”
Asked whether he expected to get his mail eventually, he said: “I think it’s unlikely. It would be nice if it did.
“Just about everyone is expecting Christmas presents they were getting for friends and family.”
Typical postal fees for islanders mean spending around £10 (€14.30) to post two CDs, Mr Knowles said.
He added: “It’s really frustrating. We have spent a lot of money.
“A company like the Royal Mail should know about Ascension.”
Mr Knowles went on: “It has not ruined Christmas but a great deal of people do not have correspondence from people in the UK.”
He also criticised the way the company had responded to the problems.
Mr Knowles said: “The thing is they have sent an apology to the post office on Ascension but I am not certain they have done anything more.”
The 29-year old said he had received no assurances that the same problem could not happen again and added that the firm could have advertised an apology in the local paper.
Asked for a message for the Royal Mail, he said: “Can we have our Christmas presents back?”
Those who want compensation will have to contact Royal Mail customer services.