New Delhi: Several thousand Indians are to be evacuated by air and the sea from Libya given “sharp and unprecedented deterioration” in the situation in the North African country witnessing anti-government protests that have claimed over 300 lives so far.
Government on Thursday decided to immediately commence evacuation of Indians and has sent a ship from Egypt to Benghazi to ferry about 1,200 people, starting with those with medical emergency, women and children. It is also expecting landing permission for its aircraft soon and therefore, has kept aircraft on stand by.
“Evacuation is being arranged by sea and air. Government has chartered a passenger ferry with capacity to seat 1200 persons for this purpose. 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 of external affairs said in a statement.
There are about 18,000 Indians in that country with majority of them living in Tripoli which is one of the worst- affected cities due to the protests.
The Indian population also include nearly 4,000 staff of some major construction companies with operations in Libya, including DS Construction, Simlex, Unitech and Punj Lloyd. Representatives of some of these companies met foreign secretary Nirupama Rao on Wednesday to discuss the situation.
“All Indians are safe and all those Indians who are willing to be evacuated will be evacuated safely and without any expenditure incurred by them,” External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said.
MEA personnel and medical team will be on board to assist the evacuees, the statement said, adding “SCOTIA PRINCE is expected to reach Benghazi by Sunday and bring back at least 1200 persons to Alexandria (Egypt) by 1 March. They would be flown home from Alexandria thereafter, by special Air India flights, which are being arranged.”
“Primary evacuation focus will be on medical emergency cases, women and children,” Rao said.
In a statement, a Punj Lloyd spokesperson said: ”Punj Lloyd has been assured safety and security of its employees and assets in Libya. We are in constant touch with the Indian Embassy in Libya and with the MEA in India to enable our employees to return to India safely.“
A Unitech Infra spokesperson also said, “Unitech Infra has already safely evacuated the families of its about 80 employees. The MEA and Indian Embassy (in Libya )have been very supportive and we are working with them to evacuate our employees at the earliest. We are in constant contact with our employees.”
BHEL, the largest engineering and manufacturing enterprise in India in the energy-related/infrastructure sector, has seven employees in Libya at present.
“We have seven employees in Libya. They are still there and are absolutely safe. BHEL is in constant touch with the MEA for their safe evacuation and we will act as per government’s advice,” BHEL sources said.
State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) and Oil India are also moving their staff out of Libya.
In Tripoli, the focus will be on air evacuation, the statement said, adding that aircraft are on stand by for this purpose as Libyan landing clearance is awaited and should be received soon.
“Preparations are also in hand for evacuation of our nationals from cities in the interior where air access is possible subject to Libyan clearance,” the ministry said.
Indian companies, many of whom are based in Libya for decades, have also offered to work with the Indian Embassy in Tripoli in facilitating evacuation, he said.
MEA is also coordinating closely with other Ministries including Defence, Overseas Indian Affairs and Shipping in making evacuation arrangements.
Round-the-clock situation rooms in MEA and the Indian Mission in Tripoli are functioning smoothly and addressing queries from corncerned families.
“Our Embassies in Egypt and Tunisia are also alert to the situation and extending all assistance,” the ministry said.