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China moves fast on Libya evacuation plans

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Feb 24, 2011
China on Thursday ramped up a massive air, sea and land operation to evacuate more than 30,000 citizens from unrest-hit Libya, with a first jet leaving Tripoli and ships with evacuees bound for Greece.

Foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said about 4,600 Chinese nationals had so far been evacuated from the oil-rich north African state, where a popular uprising against strongman Moamer Kadhafi has so far left hundreds dead.

More than 4,000 of those people were taken to the Greek island of Crete by ship, another 400 were transported to Egypt by land, and the rest were headed to Beijing aboard a chartered Air China plane, Ma told reporters.

"We are taking all necessary measures to ensure the safety of Chinese people and their property in Libya," the spokesman said.

"We are very concerned over the continuous unrest in Libya and we hope to see the early restoration of stability and normality there."

About 33,000 Chinese citizens live and work in Libya, mainly in the oil, rail and telecoms sectors, state media reported, citing embassy staff in Tripoli.

A spokesman for China's embassy in Libya, Du Minghao, said dozens of Chinese citizens had been injured since the unrest broke out more than a week ago. Fifteen of them were hospitalised, the spokesman told the China Daily.

The first jet headed back to China was filled mainly with women and children, Ma said.

A second chartered passenger jet with a capacity of about 250 left Beijing early Thursday, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The Chinese evacuation planes were loaded with tonnes of food, drinking water, medicine and emergency supplies for citizens stranded in Libya and neighbouring countries until they can be repatriated, the agency said.

Another ship chartered from Greece, as well as a cruise ship sent from Malta, each with a capacity of 2,000, are due to join the massive evacuation effort.

Two other cargo ships as well as several ferries have also been drafted into service. Beijing has said that Chinese fishing vessels that happen to be trawling in the area have been asked to help if possible.

In Tunisia, where a "Jasmine Revolution" sparked the unrest sweeping across the Arab world including Libya, Chinese officials organised a fleet of 30 buses to evacuate 2,900 Chinese stranded at the Libyan border.

Another 100 buses are being used in Egypt.

China is also helping to evacuate citizens from Hong Kong and Macau, as well as Taiwan.

Two-way trade between China and Libya, Africa's fourth largest oil producer, totalled $5.18 billion in 2009, according to official Chinese data.

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