By Marcus Leach

Spanair, Spain's fourth largest airline, has ceased operations following its sudden collapse.

The Barcelona-based firm stopped operating on Friday and more than 200 flights were abruptly cancelled.

The collapse left over 20,000 passengers stranded in Europe and Africa.

The Spanish government is taking legal action and said Spanair could be fined 9 million euros (£7.6m; $11.9m) over the collapse.

"Spanair advises that on 28th January 2012, the airline suspended operations. Due to these exceptional circumstances, all our flights were canceled," a statement on the company's website read.

"Spanair is finalising an agreement with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to facilitate the refund of purchased but not yet flown tickets of Spanair."

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