Returning Britons say Tripoli airport 'is like a zoo'

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Passengers returning to the UK on flights from Tripoli say the scenes at the airport were "manic" and "horrendous". British and Irish nationals arrived at Gatwick on Thursday on a chartered plane which was arranged by oil companies and the Foreign Office. Others who arrived home on commercial flights have also been telling of their experiences.

Ewan Black

Media caption,

Ewan Black flew back to London on Thursday morning

An IT support worker for an oil company, Ewan Black had been in Libya since December. He was on the first flight which arrived at Gatwick on Thursday morning, and is now on his way home to Fife.

"Tripoli airport is a bit of a zoo. There's about ten thousand people trying to get out - Turkish, Tunisian, Egyptian, Indian. It's just absolutely manic.

I made my own way into the airport with another guy, because I couldn't find the Foreign Office guys, so I lost all my luggage.

It is literally bodies climbing over bodies to get to the door. I got to the front.

They were only opening the door a foot at a time to let in one or two at a time, and when you have got two or three hundred people behind you pushing... I was on my knees at one stage, so was my colleague.

One of the Libyan police actually grabbed my arm when I showed him my passport, and pulled me in, and pulled the other guy in as well. I am recovering now, but I'm just glad to be home."

IT worker

One British expatriate who has returned to the UK preferred not to give his name. He lived in a suburb of Tripoli, and arrived home on Wednesday morning on a commercial flight after the British embassy advised him to leave.

"Living outside the airport were about 6,000 Egyptian and Tunisian labourers living in the open. It's absolutely hammering with rain, there's no cover for them at all.

They're living in squalor, hiding under blankets. There's no water for them, no food, no sanitation, no nothing. And no-one there to help them.

Inside it gets even worse. There were two lavatories on the ground floor for about 3-4,000 people packed inside. An entrance way inside the international check-in area is now full up with black bin bags full of rubbish. And that's now an open sewer."

Professor Helena Sheehan

Media caption,

Prof Sheerhan saw people 'carrying their worldly goods'

Professor Sheehan is an Irish national, who had been in Libya for only six days. She had been due to give a lecture.

"It is just horrendous at Tripoli airport. There are thousands of people, mostly Arabs who work there, who are trying to get home.

People are carrying all their worldly goods - things like televisions and radiators and vacuum cleaners.

My hosts completely abandoned me. My hotel then evacuated everybody, my return flight home was cancelled.

Then the Irish evacuation failed so then the British evacuation took the Irish people on."

Jan McKeogh

Image caption,
Jan McKeogh says the airport in Tripoli is "a mess, chaos".

The 63-year-old teacher is originally from Christchurch, New Zealand, but has an Irish passport. She left Tripoli because of the violence but says she "absolutely" has faith in Libya's future, and hopes to go back.

"We started out to be rescued by an Irish military flight. We got through customs, got on the bus and drove around the airport for 45 minutes, only to find the Irish plane had left with nobody on it.

The airport being the mess that it is, the flight which was chartered through the British government, they had a lot of seats on that plane they couldn't fill.

There's no check-in, check-out, there's no communication to let you know what's going on.

So I was wandering around and this gentleman came to me and said are you Irish or British? I said a bit of both. They took anybody who had a European passport."

Bryan Richards

Media caption,

British oil worker Bryan Richards describes scenes of 'mass hysteria' at Tripoli Airport (The amateur video accompanying this interview is purportedly recent footage of the scene in Libya)

Mr Richards is a British oil worker. He is now in Warsaw after being evacuated on what he was told was the Polish presidential plane. He said there had been chaotic scenes at Tripoli airport.

"This was manic. Your worst nightmare of pop concerts and football hooligans all mixed into one. It was unbelievable.

If you can imagine an area the size of the Wembley pitch full of people and luggage, all trying to move in one direction but not going anywhere. And no-one else can move either.

It was manic, unbelievably manic, mayhem. No sanitation. Nothing to eat. People have been there for days."

Richard Human

A teacher at the British School in Tripoli. He arrived back in the UK via an Italian government rescue flight on Wednesday, after a BA flight was cancelled. He said there was a lot of confusion.

"We had a briefing on Sunday and the British embassy had said carry on like normal, there are no problems. I decided to get my family out that day so I got a ticket and flew them out.

An hour-and-a-half after the briefing, a bus arrived and the embassy children were removed from the school.

We said: 'What is going on?' And the Head Teacher said: 'Right, the school is closing and we are going to go.'"

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