Europe races to evacuate expats from Libya

Media caption,
Europeans return home from Libya

More planes and ships are heading for Libya to rescue foreigners from the chaos as thousands of passengers remain stranded at Tripoli airport.

About 3,000 Turks left Benghazi in eastern Libya aboard two ferry boats on Wednesday, escorted by a Turkish frigate, Reuters news agency reported.

Two planes carrying French nationals returned to Paris from Tripoli and 118 Russians flew out on a transport plane.

Reports speak of Tripoli airport choked with expatriates desperate to leave.

Officials in several countries report delays in getting landing permission, as Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi battles to keep his grip on Tripoli.

Three more Russian planes are expected to continue evacuating hundreds of Russians and other nationals on Wednesday.

A planeload of Bulgarians also flew home on Tuesday.

The US has sent a ferry from Malta to collect its citizens from Tripoli.

The UK is sending a warship, HMS Cumberland, to the Libyan coast ahead of a possible seaborne evacuation. A special charter flight is also expected to bring UK nationals home.

Foreigners 'treat wounded'

Egypt said the runways at Benghazi airport, eastern Libya, had been destroyed in the anti-government uprising.

Meanwhile, Ukraine has sent a transport plane to get its citizens out.

Ukraine's government says at least 3,000 Ukrainians are still in Libya.

Ukrainian media report that in towns seized by anti-government protesters Ukrainian medics have been forced to work in hospitals at gunpoint, to treat people injured in the violence.

A Ukrainian doctor in Benghazi, identified as Iryna, said Ukrainian medics were scattered across Libya.

"Operation sisters, anaesthesiologists were standing for 30 hours in operating theatres and treating the wounded," she told Ukraine's ICTV news channel.

Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Dollis said Athens was struggling to determine "who is in control of what in the country, so that our landing and overflight requests are answered".

International oil firms, many of them engaged in major energy projects in Libya, are also evacuating expatriate staff.

Royal Dutch Shell said all of its expatriate staff and their dependants had been relocated from Libya.

Italy's Eni, the biggest foreign energy producer in Libya, said it was evacuating some of its expatriate staff. French oil firm Total and construction firm Vinci said they were doing likewise.

The offices of 14 Turkish construction firms were looted during the unrest, a Turkish minister said, though no casualties were reported in those incidents.

Foreign Trade Minister Zafer Caglayan told reporters in Ankara that about 4,000 Turkish workers were employed at construction sites in the Benghazi, Darnah and Tobruk areas.

In all, about 25,000 Turks are working for more than 200 Turkish construction firms in Libya, he said. The contracts are worth $27bn (£17bn) in total, he added.

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