World govts send planes, ships for Libya evacuation
By Daren Butler
ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Governments around the world scrambled on Wednesday to send planes and ships to evacuate their citizens from turmoil in Libya, whose leader Muammar Gaddafi has vowed to crush a revolt against his 41-year rule.
Fears for the safety of foreigners were heightened after a Turkish worker was shot dead as he climbed a crane at a building site near the capital Tripoli, according to Turkish officials.
Turkey, with 25,000 citizens in Libya, is mounting the biggest evacuation operation in its history, and 21 other governments have asked Ankara for help getting their nationals out, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a news conference.
European Union states are evacuating some 10,000 EU citizens from Libya, a spokesman for the EU executive said during a European Commission news briefing.
The U.S. State Department said a chartered ferry with room for about 600 passengers was due to leave Tripoli shortly for Malta. “We’re asking all U.S. citizens to head out to the ferry pier,” spokeswoman Megan Mattson told Reuters.
Witnesses described scenes of chaos as foreigners tried to escape the violence. Italy said estimates that at 1,000 people had been killed in the uprising were credible.
“The time at the airport turned into a nightmare, fights began to break out. Everyone is frantic,” said Adil Yasar, a Turk who arrived in Istanbul late on Tuesday, adding he and other evacuees had gone without food and water for two days.
Some 3,000 Turks who found sanctuary in a soccer stadium in the eastern city of Benghazi, where the uprising began, set sail for home escorted by a Turkish navy frigate, while two French military planes brought 402 French nationals back to Paris.
“We are very happy it’s over,” one passenger told Reuters after arriving at Paris’s Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport.
“It was very sudden. Five days ago, we felt really secure. One would not have said that the situation was going to degenerate so quickly.”
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has warned Gaddafi’s government against taking “cruel steps” to crush the uprising, and called on all sides to ensure the security of foreigners.
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