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Mass evacuations from Libya criss-cross Mediterranean

4,600 new arrivals in Greece by sea from Libya
Athens (AFP) Feb 27, 2011 - Another 4,600 people fleeing Libya, mostly Chinese, arrived in Greece on Sunday in Greek ferries, the merchant marine ministry said. One ferry dropped anchor in the port of Pireus, outside Athens, while the other two put into Heraklion, the main town on the southern island of Crete. In Pireus, the Nisos Rodos that the ministry said was chartered by Brazilian authorities, disembarked 390 passengers of around 10 nationalities, including women and children, an AFP photographer said.

Officials from various embassies and consulates were there to welcome the passengers, who numbered 148 Brazilians and 144 Filipinos as well as Portuguese, British, Irish, Dutch, Bosnian and Tunisian nationals. In Crete, ferries chartered by China to evacuate 15,000 of its 33,000 nationals working in Libya continued to ply their way between Libya and Greece. The Hellenic Spirit and the Olympic Champion were at anchor in Heraklion disembarking a total of 4,240 passengers, mostly Chinese, while the Venizelos was headed back to the Libyan port of Misourata, east of Tripoli.

Since Thursday the three boats have collected 7,311 foreigners, mostly Chinese, from the Libyan port of Benghazi and deposited them in Crete after 20 hours at sea. A first group of 600 Chinese caught planes for China on Saturday night. Athens offered its assistance in the evacuation operation as it seeks to improve its economic ties with Beijing as it struggles to emerge from its deep economic crisis. During the night two German army C-160 troop transporters landed at a military base on Crete after evacuating foreign nationals from sites in the Libyan desert. They included eight Greeks and 11 Cypriots, the Greek air force said. The planes landed at Nafoora airport in Libya. Athens on Thursday evacuated 200 Greeks on board three C-130s out of its estimated 300 nationals living in Libya.
by Staff Writers
Catania (AFP) Feb 27, 2011
An Italian warship brought hundreds of foreign nationals from the Libyan port of Misurata to Sicily on Sunday as mass evacuations criss-crossed the Mediterranean and Asian workers returned home.

Hundreds of Filipinos, Indians and Vietnamese -- part of the oil-rich North African state's giant multinational workforce -- said they had feared for their lives as they were greeted back in their homelands in emotional scenes.

"This escape of mine makes me feel I am in heaven," said Mohammed Sali, 63, an engineer, after landing in New Delhi. "One man came and put the knife on my neck. He took all my belongings -- laptop, chain, even my car."

Moben Kureshi, 27, a factory worker, said: "The situation of Indians, especially those who are residing in workers camps, is very bad as the camps have been burnt down and there is no shelter, food and water."

Tens of thousands of foreign workers have been fleeing Libya by air, land and sea that the United Nations says has left more than 1,000 people dead in a bloody crackdown by supporters of Libyan strongman Moamer Kadhafi.

The Italian warship, the San Giorgio, that docked in the Sicilian port of Catania on Sunday carried 121 Italians fleeing the escalating turmoil in Misurata -- the scene of several violent clashes in recent days.

Among the 258 passengers there were also citizens of Albania, Algeria, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Croatia, France, India, Macedonia, Mexico, the Philippines, Portugal, Slovakia, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey and Ukraine.

Italy, Libya's former colonial ruler, said it had evacuated more than 1,400 of its citizens so far from the turmoil in Libya. Italy's foreign ministry said Libya had around 1,500 Italian residents before the start of the crisis.

The Red Crescent organisation meanwhile warned of a "humanitarian crisis" taking shape on Libya's land border with Tunisia, where more than 40,000 people have fled in the past week including more than 15,000 Egyptians.

On Saturday, more than 150 foreign nationals were flown to Malta on two British Royal Air Force C130 Hercules transport planes after being rescued from remote oil installations in the Libyan desert by special forces.

"We flew treetop all the way across the desert, it was quite spectacular. It was a big, big relief to see those guys," Siemens employee Nigel Bilton, one of those rescued, was quoted as saying by The Sunday Times newspaper.

A British warship, the HMS Cumberland, also docked in Malta on Saturday carrying hundreds of evacuees and set off back for Libya to pick up more stranded foreigners. The HMS York has also left Malta for Libyan shores.

A Chinese-chartered ferry with more than 2,000 Chinese workers on board arrived on Saturday in Malta, which is the closest European Union member state to Libya and has been a major hub for evacuation efforts in recent days.

China said it had evacuated nearly 16,000 Chinese nationals from Libya out of more than 30,000 working in the country and has said it will be sending 15 aircraft a day for the next two weeks to speed up the evacuations.

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