Plans to fly British nationals back to the UK from coronavirus-hit Wuhan collapsed on Wednesday night, the Foreign Office has confirmed.
A family from Northumberland are among the Britons stuck near the centre of the outbreak.
The British government had anticipated flying around 200 UK citizens out of the country but it is understood Chinese officials have not yet granted permission for the chartered flight to depart.
Jeff Siddle, 55, travelled to the village of Hongtu on January 16 with his wife and nine year old daughter to celebrate the new year with Ms Siddle's family.
He told the BBC the family faced a "nightmare scenario". Mr Siddle and his nine-year-old daughter Jasmine had been offered a seat on the airlift, but his wife Sandy, who is a Chinese citizen, had been told she had to stay, despite having permanent resident status in the UK since 2008.
"The situation with the airlift is horrendous. My daughter is absolutely in floods of tears because she's going to be split up from her mum. It is a horrendous decision that we have had to make."
It comes as World Health Organisation (WHO) warned the "whole world needs to be on alert" as it reconsiders whether to declare a global health emergency.
The death toll in China passed 170, infections rose to 7,711 and cases of human-to-human transmission were confirmed in at least three other countries.
Mr Siddle said the village where his wife's family live was "like a ghost town."
Hexham MP Guy Opperman said he was working closely with the Foreign Office and that the Siddle family were his "number one concern"
Speaking on Wednesday evening, a Foreign Office spokesperson said: "We are doing everything we can to get British people in Wuhan safely back to the UK.
"A number of countries' flights have been unable to take off as planned.
"We continue working urgently to organise a flight to the UK as soon as possible.
"We remain in close contact with the Chinese authorities and conversations are ongoing at all levels."
Britons returning from Wuhan will be put in quarantine for 14 days.
Officials are looking at taking passengers to a military base once they arrive home, the Department of Health said on Wednesday.
WHO's emergency committee, which said last week it was "too early" to pronounce a global health emergency, will meet for a second time on Thursday.