Chinese nationals leave Libya by air, sea and road

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China on Wednesday activated an emergency plan to evacuate its citizens from conflict-torn Libya by air, road and sea as the first group of Chinese nationals headed home.

Before the turmoil erupted there were more than 30,000 Chinese people living in Libya, many of whom worked in the construction and telecom sectors.

The first chartered evacuation flight, an A330-200, stocked with food and medicine, left for Athens on Wednesday afternoon. It remains unclear whether the plane, expected to arrive in the Greek capital around 9 pm local time, can actually land in Libya as flight operations have been disrupted amid the turmoil.

If landing permission is granted, the plane could bring home about 250 Chinese nationals early on Friday.

A second chartered plane is scheduled to take off at 2 am on Thursday and fly to Cairo to pick up Chinese nationals already evacuated from Libya.

On land, an emergency team from the Chinese embassy in Tunisia organized a fleet of 30 buses to head to Libya. At the Ras Jedir border checkpoint, the buses will evacuate 2,900 Chinese nationals stranded there, Chinese Ambassador to Tunisia Huo Zhengde told the Xinhua News Agency.

If all goes to plan, the Chinese nationals will be driven to the Tunisian resort of Girba and stay there before taking chartered flights home.

Lu Jingchun, spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Egypt, said it was fully prepared to evacuate people stranded at border checkpoints.

As for the sea route, the Chinese embassy in Greece said it had chartered three Greek ships to go to Libya to withdraw up to 13,000 Chinese nationals to the southern Greek island of Crete before flying them back to China.

The first two ships, which together can carry about 3,800 people, arrived off Benghazi port in eastern Libya on Wednesday and "are waiting for permission to dock", Liu Wei, an embassy staff member, told China Daily, adding that a third ship was also on the way.

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