More than 200 Greek residents of Libya arrived in Athens early on Friday after being flown out of the north African country on three military transport planes.
Two of the C-130 aircraft transferred 168 Greeks from Tripoli to Athens while another two planes collected another 59 Greeks from the regions of Sirte and Sabha. Operations to evacuate other Greeks are to continue amid clashes between pro-democracy protesters and security forces.
One of eight Greeks based on a construction site in the desert south of Libya’s second main city of Benghazi told state television Net on Friday that he, two Cypriots and several other foreigners on the site were in danger. «We are in a war zone,» Panagiotis Koryfidis cried over a crackling phone connection. «If we don’t get help as soon as possible, we’ll be coming back to Greece wrapped up in the national flag.»
Government officials insisted that Greek forces were making huge efforts to rescue Greeks from the strife-torn country. «We should be proud of our armed forces and of the people who serve our state,» said Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Dollis, who was on board one of the military aircraft.
«The scenes we saw and the way our people managed to survive cannot be described easily,» he added.
A Greek Embassy employee who had been hit by bullets in his shoulder and leg was on one of the planes to Athens. He was hospitalized but is not thought to be in any danger.
On Thursday, two Greek ferries arrived at the Cretan port of Iraklio after picking up several thousand passengers from Benghazi. Although there were 17 Greeks on board, most passengers were Chinese. Some 4,500 Chinese oil and construction workers were reportedly on the vessels. Four other Greek passenger ferries are due back in Greece over the weekend.