China moves fast on Libya evacuation plans
Thu, Feb 24, 2011

BEIJING - 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 landing in Tripoli and ships with evacuees bound for Greece.

An Air China Airbus A330-200, which can carry about 250 passengers, landed in the Libyan capital early Thursday, the official Xinhua news agency quoted authorities as saying, while a second plane left Beijing in the early hours.

Three ships chartered from Greece will ferry nearly half of the Chinese citizens out of Libya, where a popular uprising against strongman Moamer Kadhafi is gathering pace, according to the Chinese embassy in Athens.

Two of those ships, each carrying more than 2,000 people, have arrived in the Libyan port of Benghazi and are expected to reach the Greek port of Heraklion later Thursday, Xinhua reported, citing embassy sources in Athens.

Diplomats have divided the evacuees - some of whom no longer have passports or any identification - into travel groups of 50 people each, to make the massive operation flow more easily, the agency said.

A cruise ship also has been sent from Malta, with a capacity of 2,000. 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.

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 first group of 43 evacuees who escaped the north African country into Egypt earlier this week arrived in Beijing on Thursday.

China has called on Tripoli to ensure the safety of its nationals, after hundreds of construction workers in eastern Libya were forced to flee attacks on their compound by gun-toting robbers.

"China has made urgent representations to the Libyan side, requiring it to conduct investigations (into the attacks) and bring the perpetrators to justice," foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told reporters on Tuesday.

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.

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