Foreigners flee Libya 'hell'

2011-02-25 07:40

London - Foreigners on Friday faced hellish scenes in Tripoli as countries worldwide sent planes and warships in a desperate bid to rescue their nationals from the chaos engulfing Libya.

Anarchy descended on Tripoli airport as thousands of foreigners packed into the terminal to try to escape the widening crisis, with those who managed to leave describing how food and water were running low.

Nearly 20 000 people have also fled Libya by road to Tunisia over the past four days amid the bloodshed sparked by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s attempts to cling to power.

"Libya is descending into hell," said Helena Sheehan, who made it to London Gatwick Airport on the first specially-chartered British rescue flight.

"The airport is like nothing I've ever seen in my whole life," the 66-year-old said. "It's absolute chaos. There's just thousands and thousands of people trying to get out."

Other foreigners told of gunmen standing on roundabouts and getting on buses looking for mercenaries.

Italy, the nearest major European country and Libya's biggest trading partner, warned of a looming "catastrophic humanitarian crisis" as up to 1.5 million migrants flee north Africa.

Rough weather

The logistical challenges were especially acute for Asian countries with more than 150 000 low-paid workers trapped - including some 60 000 Bangladeshis and 30 000 Filipinos.

A US-chartered ferry carrying 285 evacuees remained stuck in the port of Tripoli, the State Department said.

Rough weather kept the ferry from sailing to the island of Malta, said State Department spokesperson Philip Crowley, who said those aboard were not in immediate danger.

"These people have been on board the ship for...well over 24 hours. I'm sure they're uncomfortable. They slept last night on the ship," he told reporters.

China ramped up a massive air, sea and land operation to evacuate more than 30 000 of its citizens, with over 4 000 transferred to the nearby Greek island of Crete on Thursday.

Emergency plans

Evacuee Jill Wang, 24, a translator working for a construction firm near Benghazi, said: "We did not go outside the compound, but others who did were robbed by gangs and some got injured. We were really scared and afraid that something worse would happen."

Around 200 Greeks were evacuated on board C-130 troop transport planes, the foreign ministry said.

Greek evacuee Costas Koumentakos, from Athens, said: "We had local friends, they saved us. We were afraid because someone could kill you without answering to no one. There is no police, it's anarchy."

A Spanish military plane returned to Madrid from Tripoli early on Friday carrying 40 Spaniards and 84 people of other nationalities including British, Finnish, Mexican, Canadian, Ukrainian and Portuguese, Spanish media reported.

Migrante International, a support group for Philippines workers abroad, said Filipinos had been left to fend for themselves, as Vice President Jejomar Binay planned to fly to the region to review emergency plans.

  • Aj - 2011-02-25 07:51

    How did all this start again ?

      Verbatim - 2011-02-25 08:08

      The chaos had started with the detention of Mr. Terbil, a lawyer who represents families of those killed in a massacre of more than 1,000 inmates in Abu Slim prison in Tripoli in 1996. The families planned to be part of a protest on Feb. 17, and Mr. Terbil said that the authorities detained him on Feb. 15, hoping to head off the demonstrations. During an interview in a second-floor office in the court building on Thursday, Mr. Terbil said his interrogation stretched out over two days, as his supporters protested outside the security building where he was detained. Using carrots and sticks, the authorities told him to find a way to end the demonstrations. “I told them it’s already on Facebook and Twitter,” he said he told the officer interrogating him. “We can’t stop it. We can make it peaceful.” The interrogator’s response, Mr. Terbil said, was: “We cannot allow protests like that to take place. Blood will be shed.”

      Stuartthom - 2011-02-25 08:51

      it was Juju at the Youth Forum meeting

  • Verbatim - 2011-02-25 07:55

    Someone must get a person close to him to have him and his immediate family or those stupid enough to want to succeed him killed. Thats the only way this crap will stop. No military solution is workable as the casualties will be far greater than if he was assasinated. Make a martyr out of him and do damage control afterwards. Just stop the slaughter.

  • Gaddafi - 2011-02-25 07:55

    all in the name of power. we can only hope that african presidents could learn from this and let go of this obsession of power!

  • zulufox - 2011-02-25 08:07

    I blame the USA, they want OIL! *chuckles*

      Verbatim - 2011-02-25 08:18

      blame apartheid. its the root of all evil apparently.

      benjvanniekerk - 2011-02-25 08:24

      Still cannot accept responsibility for your own situation, blame USA, blame others, blame . . . , Choke in your chuckles man.

      persiuskomper2 - 2011-02-25 08:58

      I blame it on Ben's lack of wit... and the NYDA's festival

      Benny66 - 2011-02-25 09:28

      Zulufox. Deary me. Your foul language is as abhorrent as your weak and insensitive joke!! Get a hold of yourself man. Do you have no dignity or self respect?

      BlackSwan - 2011-02-25 09:29

      Zulufox You are not fit to give your opinion on a forum for civilized people with manners

  • briansmith702 - 2011-02-25 08:19

    On SAFM this morning the RSA ambassador to Lybia was interviewed. What an embarassment. It appears as if the ANC and Zuma are right up Gdaffi's ass. He maintained that there where no foreign mercenaries, no planes being used and that all TV stations, BBC, CNN, SKY news and AL Jazeera were all screened in Lybia. He clearly had not seen any of the interviews on any of these channels or was toeing the line for Gaddafi. It was a total embarrassment and a disgrace to any sane person's intellect. Heaven help us if this is the calibre of Zuma's foreign diplomats.

      smscott4 - 2011-02-25 08:33

      we dont have a government , we have a gang of lackies,

  • - 2011-02-25 08:20

    It seems to me that the entire country was being run by foreign nationals. 30 000 Chinese alone. It appears things are going to get bloody there very soon. ANOTHER aging African leader that refuses to give up power in the face of his people.

      Verbatim - 2011-02-25 08:40

      "It appears things are going to get bloody there very soon. " - WHAT? - It got bloody long ago.

  • smscott4 - 2011-02-25 08:26

    the whole world's trying to get ride of old dictators, mean while we are manufacturing new ones.

  • diranp - 2011-02-25 08:32

    Meet the 21st century Hitler,thinking,do you think Hitler and his men would of went into hospitals and killed their own people!!! Gadaffi is crazy,beyond crazy he is : A combination of Hitler,Mugabe,George W Bush and Julius Malema all put in one. I kiss the ground I live on,thank god for South Africa,we should be happy for the lives we live and not be negative 24/7. We might have problems but nothing compared to the rest of Africa...

      smscott4 - 2011-02-25 08:40

      I agree, but we have to be carefull not to slide back wards into it, very easily

  • johnnyfilm - 2011-02-25 08:37


      smscott4 - 2011-02-25 08:43

      I really hope so

      diranp - 2011-02-25 08:49

      I hope so to, but than we'll get 10 million foreigners running towards SA...

      Ion James - 2011-02-25 08:50

      That's problematic , if you thing Gadafi is bad , you ain't seen nothing yet . Imagine something like that happening right next door to us ? and given the history of the ANC , mostly likely it'll be Our Guns , Our Soldiers killing the civilians . Big Bob just doesn't care ,he'll burn the whole country down before giving up power .

      Verbatim - 2011-02-25 08:51

      @diran - as opposed to the 10 million already here?

  • tshepotheterminator - 2011-02-25 08:52

    down with gidaffi off with his head down with gidaffi off with his head down with gidaffi off with his head...... Amandla Viva the revolution viva.

  • jon paper - 2011-02-25 08:58

    just 4 more comments ...and then this will be about the South African government ...amazing how we connect a polar bear's death to the uselessness of the South African Govt...everytime...

      Coenraad - 2011-02-25 09:15

      SA government won't say anything now, because they support Gaddafi, but after he's gone they will say: "We support the people of Libya". Just like they did with Egypt. Spineless cowards.

  • Freakfloyd - 2011-02-25 09:06

    Murderer cant be a Martyr - so go and get rid of yourself Ghaddafi !

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