New Delhi, Feb 24 (IANS) Amid forecasts of escalating violence in Libya, the Indian government has sent a ship from Egypt to Benghazi to ferry around 1,200 Indians and has also readied aircraft for evacuation from Libyan capital Tripoli.
“In view of the sharp and unprecedented deterioration in the situation inside Libya, the government has decided to immediately commence evacuation operations for our citizens in that country,” the external affairs ministry said in a statement.
“Evacuation is being arranged by sea and air. Government has chartered a passenger ferry with capacity to seat 1,200 people for this purpose,” it added.
The ship, “Scotia Prince”, is already in Egypt and readying for sail to Benghazi which will be the initial focus of the evacuation operations, the ministry said, adding that personnel from the ministry and medical team will be on board to assist the evacuees.
The ship is expected to reach Benghazi by Sunday and bring back at least 1,200 people to Alexandria in Egypt by March 1. They would be flown home from Alexandria thereafter, by special Air India flights, which are being arranged.
There are about 18,000 Indians in Libya, which has been hit by a wave of anti-government protests seeking the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s ruler for 41 years.
In Tripoli, the focus will be on air evacuation, the ministry said, adding that aircraft are on stand by for this purpose.
Libyan landing clearance is awaited and should be received soon, it said.
Preparations are also in hand for evacuation of Indian nationals from cities in the interior where air access is possible subject to Libyan clearance.
Indian companies, many of them working in Libya for decades, have also offered to work with the Indian embassy in Tripoli in facilitating evacuation.
The external affairs ministry is coordinating closely with other ministries, including defence, overseas Indian affairs and shipping in making evacuation arrangements.