Libyan evacuation scramble
MALTA: Malta has become a hub for evacuations from Libya. All day planes have been landing here. A large Greek jumbo brought out mainly Chinese workers. Air Malta arrived with a plane-load of mainly construction workers. Among them were six British workers.
Then mid-afternoon an RAF Hercules landed with 64 people, mainly British citizens. They were transferred to an unmarked plane that had been chartered by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. On board were more than 100 passengers who had been brought out of Tripoli earlier. They had had to sit on the runway for at least a couple of hours.
One man on the Hercules flight said there was clapping and cheering when the plane landed in Malta. Many of those leaving had heard or witnessed shooting. All testified to the chaos at Tripoli airport. One man told us that the Libyan police had used cattle prods on the crowds. Others said that people had come to the airport with fridges, water coolers and blankets. They had to leave them behind. There was a mountain of cases. It was a free-for-all, another man told us. Many passengers did not know which flights were available. Some pilots had to head into the crowds of waiting passengers to find the right people for their flight.
One man said to us that the Foreign Office had a lot of lessons to learn. The communications were terrible.
HMS Cumberland is picking up people in the port of Benghazi and will bring them here to Malta probably tomorrow
From a British point of view, the greatest concern relates to the 150 people who are at desert camps or remote places. Many have been robbed of their vehicles and are vulnerable to armed gangs. One possibility is that they will have to be rescued by UK special forces. Malta is becoming the staging post for getting people out of Libya.