Foreign and Military Affairs

More evacuees from Libya celebrate return

Updated: 2011-03-06 09:09

By Li Lianxing (China Daily)

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More evacuees from Libya celebrate return

There were smiles all around as returning workers and government facilitators were greeted with flowers at a Beijing airport terminal on Saturday. [Photo by Wang Zemin / For China Daily]

BEIJING - More than 1,100 additional evacuees from Libya returned to China on Saturday, with two flights arriving in the nation's capital early in the day and a third plane reaching Guangzhou last night.

A total of 778 evacuees landed at Beijing International Airport on Saturday morning as the large-scale evacuation of Chinese nationals from turbulent Libya neared its completion. The arrivals included 19 members of a cross-ministerial work team sent to Libya by Chinese government on Feb 23.

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The members of that team arrived in Libya on Feb 24, and they were assigned to the capital city Tripoli, Benghazi, Misurata, Sabha and the border area between Libya and Tunisia, to help evacuees get out of perilous areas.

Fei Mingxing, director of the work team, said that to reach stranded Chinese nationals on the borders, the team had to cross a hazardous battle zone.

"The time was extremely limited and the local situation was deteriorating. Some of the local drivers even refused to take us," said Fei. "But we eventually arranged to get there as there were hundreds of people waiting for us. They needed us."

Li Chunlin, one of the team leaders from Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the most difficult task was to ensure the safety of such a huge amount of evacuees. "We tried our best to cooperate with various parties to ensure a safe journey."

Ye Fan, a 44-year-old worker from Jiangsu Luneng Construction Company, said he and his colleague left Libya on Feb 28 with the help of Chinese officials, traveling first by sea to the Greek island of Crete. After two days' rest, they got on the plane back to China.

"We received very delicate care from the work team. The food and accommodation on the journey were really nice." When asked the feeling of returning homeland, Ye murmured: "Home is always the best place. I really appreciate that our government can protect us and take us back efficiently."

"The journey went perfectly and all passengers were so nice," said Jacovides Hugh, senior cabin crew member of this flight from Greek Hellenic Imperial Airways. "We respect Chinese people very much and we are glad that we can help them."

Another cabin crew member, Chaldaios Stylianos, told China Daily the evacuation organized by the Chinese government was "perfect and impressive".

Song Tao, vice-minister of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, went to the cabin and highly praised the efforts and cooperation by the work team and others.

"We really appreciate all the support offered by countries which shared a long and close friendship with China."

Song also said that Chinese Embassy in Libya still operates normal and stands by for any help.

Saturday afternoon, a Boeing 777 of China Southern Airlines, carrying 344 employees of the Beijing Construction Engineering Group, arrived at the Urumqi International Airport and after a one-hour-long technical stop, the plane took off for Guangzhou.

"Passengers were hailing and saying big thanks to our motherland when I announced that our plane just crossed the border and entered into China," said Tang Xiaomai, the flight commander.

Since the first chartered Chinese flight arrived in Beijing with 224 evacuees on Feb 25, the Chinese government had transferred more than 35,860 Chinese nationals from Libya by air, sea and land as of March 2.

This unprecedented effort has been applauded at home as "a demonstration of the government's care for the people" and "a symbol of rising national strength", according to People's Daily.

National legislators in Beijing for the upcoming annual parliamentary session said Thursday the government's evacuation endeavor, the largest ever since 1949, had been "prompt, efficient and successful".

Shao Wei contributed to this story.


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