Beijing, March 3 (IANS) Around 35,860 Chinese nationals have been evacuated from Libya since protests began against the regime of long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi, the ministry of foreign affairs has said.
Vice Foreign Minister Song Tao said 20,745 of the evacuees were already back in China, according to Xinhua.
This was the largest and the most complicated overseas evacuation ever conducted by the Chinese government since 1949, he said.
On Wednesday, a Greek-flagged merchant ship El. Venizelos carrying 2,141 Chinese evacuees from Libya docked at the southern Greek island of Crete.
Around 14,000 staff members of Chinese companies in Libya – including Bangladeshi and Vietnamese employees – have been evacuated by cargo ships chartered by the Chinese government.
Chinese Ambassador to Greece Luo Linquan said all Chinese evacuees in Crete were expected to return home by Friday.
On Wednesday night, four Chinese military transporters evacuated 1,700 Chinese citizens from Libya to Sudanese capital Khartoum, where they will temporarily stay before returning to China.
Chinese Ambassador to Turkey Gong Xiaosheng said the evacuees, who returned home, first took chartered flights from southern Libya to Istanbul, where they boarded planes bound for three major Chinese cities – Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, before eventually returning to their native towns.
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) said Wednesday in Paris that at least 3,000 people are estimated to have been killed so far in Libya since protests broke out Feb 14.
Ali Zeidan, a spokesman for the Libyan Human Rights League, gave a much higher toll estimate, saying the figure could be as high as 6,000.
This included around 3,000 dead in Tripoli, 2,000 dead in Benghazi and another 1,000 countrywide, he said.