Evacuees return with tales of agony

Last Updated 27 February 2011, 19:34 IST

Those who  returned from Libya had harrowing tales to tell of suffering and killings in the trouble-torn  North African country.

From being robbed to surviving without water and food for days, tales of pain, suffering—and finally rescue— rang out loud.

Mohammed Sali, an engineer from Kerala, made Libyan capital Tripoli his second home nearly 31 years ago. However, things took a  turn for the worse after the contagious crave for democracy and political reforms that earlier swept through Tunisia and Egypt reached Libya.

“People in many localities in Tripoli had to go without food or water for several days. We heard gunshots frequently. A man came with a knife and robbed me of my laptop and car,” Sali told mediapersons at  Indira Gandhi International Airport here early on Sunday.
The 63-year-old is one of the 530 Indians who were flown back home from Tripoli by two special flights of the Air India.

“There is no rule of law and there are no police in Libya now,” said Dr Sajjan Lal, who is  from Hyderabad, but has since long been working in a hospital in Tripoli.

Many Indians fell prey to miscreants even at  Tripoli International Airport and were relieved of their mobile phones and other valuables just before they could board the Boeing 747 and Airbus A 330.

Navbir, another medic, said  the airport looked chaotic, with a large number of worried people from other countries awaiting their flights to get out of Libya. Mobin Qureshi from Uttar Pradesh lived in a workers’ camp in Tripoli.

He had to spend several nights on road amid rain after the camp was burnt during the protests.

To facilitate the returnees’ onward journey to their hometowns, 10 help desks set up at  IGI Airport’s Terminal  2 were re-activated by the Delhi International Airport Limited. The first batch of evacuees was received by Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahmed and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao.

Evacuation  to continue

With 18,000 Indians in Libya, New Delhi’s “Operation Safe Homecoming” is likely to go on for several days to come. A spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs said  88 Indian employees of Punj Lloyd had crossed over by road from Libya to Ras Jedir in Tunisia late in the evening on Saturday.

They were received by officials of the Indian Embassy in Tunis, who had been camping in the town near Tunisia and Libya border. Another 170 people were expected to reach Ras Jedir on Sunday. They all are likely to be flown to New Delhi shortly.

The MV Scotia Prince, a ship hired by the Indian government, set sail from Port Said in Egypt on Saturday. It may  reach eastern Libyan port of Benghazi on Monday to bring around 1,200 out of 3,000 Indians living there to Alexandria in Egypt for being flown back home by Air India.

New Delhi also charted another passenger ship La Superba with a capacity of 1,600. It is  berthed in Sicily in Italy and ready to sail to Libya as soon as port preparations are completed.  Indian Naval Ships Jalashwa and Mysore, too, set sail for Libya on Saturday.

(Published 27 February 2011, 07:23 IST)

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