NEWS

Search continues on Crete for lost Libya evacuees

Coast Guard and Navy vessels on Monday continued a search for 11 Bangladeshi evacuees from Libya, missing since early Sunday after abandoning a ferry near Crete?s Souda Bay along with dozens of compatriots, three of whom had been found drowned by late last night.

The local coast guard chief, Antonis Daskalakis, said that worsening weather conditions were hampering the search for the missing Bangladeshis but that efforts would continue until they are found.

The Cyprus-flagged Ionian King had sailed in to Souda Bay in the early hours of Sunday with 1,288 evacuees from Libya where pro-reform demonstrators are seeking to wrest control from forces loyal to Colonel Moammar Gadhafi.

Shortly after 3 a.m., a group of 49 Bangladeshis used a rope to clamber down the side of the vessel, the Ministry of Marine Affairs said in a statement. The statement added that more than 10 coast guard vessels and a rescue helicopter were deployed after officials on a nearby navy base reported seeing people in the sea and on the beach.

Of the 49 Bangladeshis who abandoned the ferry, three were found drowned and 11 were still missing by late on Monday. The remainder were treated in local hospitals before being returned to the ferry. Daskalakis said all the Bangladeshis found had been employed by the South Korean conglomerate Daewoo in Libya. It appears that they abandoned the ship as they feared they would be sent back to their homeland.

The remaining passengers aboard the Ionian King were chiefly Koreans, Filipinnos and Sudanese, Daskalakis said. Some of the other passengers had already boarded flights to their homelands by late Monday while the rest were to remain on the vessel until their repatriation is arranged.