First batch of evacuees from Libya reaching Delhi midnight (Lead)

February 26th, 2011 - 11:38 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 26 (IANS) The first batch of Indians evacuated from the strife-torn north African nation of Libya will land here in a special Air India flight close to midnight Saturday, officials said. Meanwhile, three Indian Navy ships have sailed to Libya to help in the evacuation of the 18,000 Indians in the country, while the external affairs ministry said another passenger ship, presently in the Mediterranean Sea, is being chartered for evacuation and expected to reach Libya’s Benghazi Monday.

The special flights, two in a day, will bring back Indians stranded in Libya, where a revolt against the Muammar Gaddafi government has turned violent, so far claiming over 1,000 lives.

“The first plane carrying 291 passengers from (Libyan capital) Tripoli will land here by 11.45 p.m. It took off at 4.30 p.m. from there,” a senior Air India official said.

He said the Being 747 jumbo jet which was sent to Libya for evacuation of Indians will soon be followed by a second plane which is scheduled to take off from Tripoli soon.

“The second plane, an Airbus A330, will follow soon and land in Delhi by tomorrow (Sunday),” the official said.

The Air India official added that both the planes were expected to bring back around 700 passengers.

The specially chartered Air India Boeing 747 with a capacity of 360 passengers, and an Airbus 330 with a capacity of 280, will return to New Delhi, landing at Terminal 2, after picking up passengers at Tripoli, the external affairs ministry said earlier Saturday.

Additional personnel are in position at the Indian embassy in Tripoli to enhance the manpower strength of the mission, a ministry release said.

Another passenger ship with a capacity of 1,600, presently in the Mediterranean, is being chartered today (Saturday) and will be pressed into service for evacuating Indians, the release added.

The ship, Scotia Prince is scheduled to leave from Port Said (Egypt) Saturday and likely to arrive at its destination by Monday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Indian Navy’s INS Jalashwa and INS Mysore - specially equipped for the mission with full medical facilities on board, including operation theatres, doctors and paramedical staff, set sail from Mumbai.

The main rescue vessel, INS Jalashwa is a Landing Platform Dock-type amphibious platform particularly designed for sea lift mission and also capable of undertaking humanitarian missions, while INS Mysore is a Delhi Class destroyer.

The ships are also carrying helicopters and a contingent of marine Special Forces personnel.

Another ship, INS Aditya is also accompanying the two rescue ships to provide them the necessary logistics support.

The ships will evacuate Indian nationals from Libya to either Malta or Egypt, from where they will be transferred by air to India.

The rescue fleet is expected to reach Libya in ten days’ time, the official said.

Describing the situation in Libya as “very grave”, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna Friday had said India was closely watching the developments in the country.

Denying that the government had been slow in responding to the situation, the minister had said that two Indian aircraft will be reaching Tripoli soon.

The minister had also denied allegations that the government was charging passengers for the evacuation and cautioned people against those trying to exploit the situation.

There are at least 18,000 Indians in Libya, including an estimated 3,000 in Benghazi, where the airport has been rendered unusable due to the fighting.

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