Sixty-four Maltese people who want to leave Libya have not yet been evacuated as Tripoli airspace was closed yesterday after widespread violence hit the north African capital.
It is not known whether the airspace will reopen today but the government is keeping in touch with each of these people individually to arrange ways of bringing them back to Malta, probably by sea.
Meanwhile, as many as 6,000 people will have arrived in Malta between yesterday and today as the country assumes the role of a “humanitarian hub”. The flood of evacuees by sea can be given medical attention as soon as they arrive at Grand Harbour.
A Germany Navy vessel that arrived in Grand Harbour yesterday to ferry evacuees back home. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli
All those who wanted to leave Tripoli have managed to leave but others are spread around the country. There are others, including a Maltese bishop in Benghazi, who chose to remain in Libya.
As the protesters’ noose tightens around Tripoli, their chances of leaving by air through that city have become slimmer. However, catamaran operator Virtu Ferries yesterday announced it would send a ferry to evacuate anyone who needs it from Tripoli. Maltese citizens will not be charged for the trip.
In Malta, around 2,000 hotel rooms have been placed on standby for evacuees but most foreigners being brought over by sea will have their own accommodation on the vessels, while many others will be leaving the island by plane as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, back at the airport, 69 flights have been directly related to Libya’s emergency situation since Monday, bringing around 2,000 people. Some 31 of the flights were operated by commercial airlines, 21 by military aircraft and 17 by small private planes.
Scheduled flights and vessels operating in and out of the country have been unaffected by the activity.
Two large catamarans chartered by the US, carrying over 600 people including 37 children and four Maltese citizens, arrived yesterday night.
Some of the people had been on board for some two days, delayed by bad weather, and the trip itself was at least 10 hours long.
Meanwhile, a British ship, HMS Cumberland, arrived at 2 a.m. with some 200 people on board, mostly British citizens.
Today a ship contracted by a Brazilian company is expected to arrive at 11 a.m. carrying some 1,720 people, mostly from the Far East, while at 10 a.m. a cruise ship will bring some 2,150 Chinese workers together with 13 Maltese people.
A flight chartered by a private company in Malta in association with Medavia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has rescued a number of Maltese who had been stranded on a desert oil rig in Libya.
The plane flew direct from Malta to an airstrip near the oil rig, picked up the workers, stopped at Tripoli to pick up more workers, and then flew on to Malta.
The workers had been concerned about dwindling supplies of food and water and fears that oil installations would be bombed. Flight clearance was granted after two days of negotiations but the flight was delayed further yesterday because of a sandstorm
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