BP, Statoil prepare Libya evacuations
Rome - Statoil was pulling some of its employees from Libya and BP was preparing to do so, the oil companies said Monday, as Portugal sent plane to pick up its citizens and other EU nationals and Turkey sent two ferries to pick up construction workers stranded in the unrest-hit country.
The United States and many European nations have already urged their citizens to avoid nonessential travel to Libya because of the continuing clashes between protesters and security forces, particularly in Benghazi, the country's second largest city. The protests so far have led to at least 200 deaths.
The EU said the bloc will prepare for the possible evacuation of European citizens. It does not have the power to require its member states to evacuate their citizens from a foreign country, but ministers can agree on co-ordinated action in come cases.
"We are very worried about the situation in Libya," said Spain's foreign minister, Trinidad Jimenez, at a regular monthly meeting in Brussels that was largely focused on the unrest across the Middle East. "At the same time, we are coordinating the possible evacuation of EU citizens from Libya."
EU countries planned a teleconference on Monday afternoon to discuss flights out of Libya, Finnish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Teemu Turunen said.
Turkey is sending two ferries to Libya to evacuate Turks - mostly construction workers. The decision came hours after authorities at Benghazi airport would not allow a Turkish Airlines plane to land, forcing it to circle the airport and then return to Istanbul.
Attacked by protesters
Foreign Trade Minister Zafer Caglayan said four planes were on standby, while Turkey is also considering evacuating some of its citizens by land, through Egypt.
Turkey began evacuating its citizens after several Turkish construction sites around Benghazi were attacked and looted by protesters on Friday. Caglayan said 14 Turkish companies were targeted - their equipment and vehicles looted or destroyed - although no one was hurt in the raids.
UK-based BP is drawing up plans for evacuating staff "in the next couple of days", BP spokesperson David Nicholas said. Unless the situation in Libya changes, it is very likely the plans will go into effect, he added.
Norway-based Statoil is pulling a "handful" of expatriate workers out of its office in Tripoli, the capital, company spokesperson Baard Pedersen said. Locally hired staff will remain in Libya but are off duty while Statoil's office is closed, he said.
In Italy, an Eni spokesperson said at the moment there is no change in its Libyan operations, which means production as usual and no evacuations. The Italian oil company, which has been in Libya for more than 50 years, operates generally in more remote locations in Libya, away from the current unrest.
Italian flagship airline Alitalia indicated Tripoli airport was operating regularly and said that its regularly scheduled midmorning flight for the Libyan capital had departed as usual from Rome and would make the return leg as scheduled in the afternoon.
Alitalia has a second, evening flight for Libya, and the company said that it would decide later in the day if security conditions would allow the flight to go ahead as scheduled.
The Polish consul general in Tripoli, Stanislaw Gulinski, said there are about 500 Poles in Libya, and that the Polish government plans to organize evacuations for them. Speaking by phone on Polish station TVN24, he noted, however, that many of the Poles there have already indicated that they do not want to leave. Many are Polishwomen married to Libyans who do not want to be separated from their families, he said.
Sweden's Foreign Ministry said Swedish wireless equipment maker LM Ericsson was organising a plane out of Tripoli on Monday. Swedes who are interested in flying out can join but at their own costs.