Residents, Unnerved By Libyan Missile Strike, Abandon Homes With PM-Libya, Bjt
Apr. 18, 1986
LAMPEDUSA, Italy (AP) _ Some residents of this tiny island midway between Sicily and Libya have taken refuge in caves and bunkers that were used during World War II, worried that Libya may launch another missile attack.
Others among the barren island's 4,500 people have been sleeping outdoors, where they would avoid the danger of being crushed inside their homes.
On Tuesday, less than 15 hours after the U.S. bombing raid on Libyan cities, Libya fired two Soviet-built surface-to-surface missiles at Lampedusa, situated about 180 miles north of Libya and 170 miles southwest of Sicily.
Both missiles landed harmlessly in the sea, short of their apparent target, a U.S. Coast Guard radar navigation installation on the island. Italian military officials have been quoted as saying the missiles may have fallen short because of strong winds.
A Carabinieri police officer on the island told The Associated Press today some Lampedusans are still staying away from their homes, but he refused to give other details, including an estimate of how many.
Many of the frightened residents fled to bunkers and tunnels that were carved out of rock for protection during World War II. The older people remember taking refuge there in 1943, when American bombers raided the island.
An anonymous telephone caller on Wednesday added to islanders' nervousness. Authorities said a man speaking Italian with a marked Arabic accent, in a call to the switchboard at Lampedusa's airport, declared: ''Tomorrow we will destroy the airport.''
Immediately after Tuesday's failed missile strike, Italian paratroopers were sent to Lampedusa.
In addition, fighter jets have escorted regular airline flights from Palermo, Sicily, the Italian newspaper La Stampa reported on Thursday.
The newspaper said the island's 80 teachers wanted to abandon Lampedusa but were persuaded by authorities in Agrigento, Sicily, to stay. Schools and post offices closed down after the attack.
News reports also said fishermen have been staying out of the waters around the island since Tuesday.
During the day, some of the residents have staged demonstrations to show their fear.
''We were expecting tourists and missiles arrived,'' said one poster.
La Stampa said the reluctance of ferry workers to sail without a naval escort caused a delay in service from Sicily's Porto Empedocle.
The newspaper said an official, Vittoria Della Sfora, finally persuaded them to make the run, saying, ''We must not be cowards, we must sent a signal of courage.''
Fishing for sponge and sardines are the two main occupations on the eight- square-mile island, which was settled in the 18th century.