Greek frigate returns after Libya evacuation
PIRAEUS, Greece (AP) — A Greek navy frigate carrying embassy staff and nearly 200 people from Greece, China and other countries evacuated from the conflict in Libya returned early Saturday to a port near Athens.
Passengers on the frigate Salamis described a deteriorating security situation in the Libyan capital Tripoli, with frequent power and water cuts.
The Greek Defense Ministry the ship transported 77 people from Greece, 78 from China, 10 from Britain, seven from Belgium, one each from Russia and Albania.
The Greek evacuation followed similar action by a number of European countries, as fighting between rival militias in recent weeks.
Poland’s Foreign Ministry said Friday that it has evacuated two dozen Poles and citizens of two other countries. All of Poland’s diplomats have now left the country. Britain says it will suspend work at its consulate in Tripoli once it has completed assisting the departure of British nationals.
“We were hearing explosions all the time, but the fighting was on the outskirts of Tripoli,” said Mustafa Avocat, a Greek-Libyan accountant, who was holding his crying infant son, moments after stepping off the Greek frigate.
“Things are getting worse. The power is cut 5-7 hours every day. There are water cuts too ... and the shops are closed.”
Constantine Koutras, a spokesman for the Greek Foreign Ministry, said moving embassy staff to the port was the most difficult part of the operation.
“I was on the phone to our charge d’affaires at the embassy to get an update and I could hear the sound of gunfire in the background,” he told state TV.
“So in places like this and in these kinds of situations there is a very small difference between things going well and going very, very badly,” he added.
In Manila, about 20 Filipinos arrived Saturday after escaping from Libya through Tunisia.
“At the border in Tunisia, it was like we had one foot already in the grave,” Abraham Brios, a cook for a Libyan family who returned with his wife, told reporters at the Manila international airport.
“There was shooting in front of us, so we just prayed. ... Now that we are here, we now feel reassured.”
Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said that more than 800 of about 13,000 Filipinos in Libya had returned to their homeland.
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Oliver Teves in Manila contributed to this report.