New Delhi, Feb 26 (IANS) The first batch of Indians evacuated from the strife-torn north African nation of Libya will land here close to midnight Saturday, an Air India official said.
“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 official of the flag carrier said.
According to him, 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 two planes, one from Mumbai and one from Delhi, left for Tripoli at around 1:30 a.m. (Indian time) and reached Tripoli by afternoon.
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 Air India official added that both the planes were expected to bring back around 700 passengers.
Meanwhile, earlier in the day, three Indian Navy ships set sail for Libya from Mumbai.
Among the ships, INS Jalashwa and INS Mysore are specially equipped for the mission with full medical facilities on board, including operation theatres, doctors and paramedical staff.
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 recue 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 said India was closely watching the developments in Libya.
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.
The government has also chartered a 1,200-seater passenger ferry, which is on its way to Benghazi.
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.