Chinese workers tell of their lucky escape from violence

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 February, 2011, 12:00am

The first 83 Chinese nationals evacuated from Libya arrived back in Beijing and Shanghai yesterday, as part of Beijing's bid to evacuate more than 30,000 people trapped from the violence-wracked country.

Nearly 6,000 people had been evacuated from the North African country by early last night, including 213 people on the first charted Air China jet, which was expected to arrive in Beijing this morning, Xinhua said.

'It's terrific to get back home,' Xinhua quoted Dong Shubao, a 44-year-old construction worker from Jiangsu , as saying.

Dong, who was sent to Libya five months ago, was among a group of 40 workers who arrived at Shanghai Pudong International Airport at about 2pm yesterday on a Qatar Airways flight from the Egyptian city of Alexandria.

He said he and other Chinese nationals felt lucky to be repatriated just hours after they fled Libya. 'Many foreigners are still stranded in Libya,' he said.

Xie Guangfu, a Shandong worker on the same flight, said workers were scared after anti-government protests erupted across Libya.

'The situation there is critical. Looters broke into houses, threatening and robbing us with knives and guns,' Xie said. 'We didn't feel safe until we managed to get to the Chinese embassy in Egypt after a long journey.'

Dong and Xie were among more than 100 workers employed by China Building Technique Group who were evacuated from Tobruk, a Libyan town near the border with Egypt, to Cairo.

Another 43 workers from the company arrived in Beijing yesterday morning on an Emirates Airline flight.

The Ministry of Commerce said that more than 36,000 Chinese nationals from 75 mainland companies had been working on 50 projects in Libya, mostly oil, railway and telecommunications projects. Attacks were reported on the compounds of at least 27 projects, with several people injured in the raids and Chinese workers forced to defend themselves against gun-wielding robbers, according to a statement posted on the ministry's website.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the rescue operation, the largest in the history of the People's Republic, was well under way by land, air and sea.

More than 4,600 Chinese nationals onboard two Greek ferries arrived at the port of Heraklion on the Mediterranean island of Crete last night.

The ferries were among a group of three ferries and five cargo ships charted by the Chinese embassy in Greece to evacuate more than 15,000 people from Benghazi.

Nearly 1,000 people had been evacuated across Libya's border with Tunisia by early yesterday morning while nearly 400 people arrived at the Libyan-Egyptian border by bus. The embassies in Tunisia and Egypt sent more than 100 buses to the border areas to pick up Chinese nationals yesterday.

Although the bulk of Chinese nationals trapped in Libya have been covered by Beijing's massive evacuation plan, some appear to have been left behind. Nearly 50 Chinese workers from a Jilin branch of PetroChina are trapped at a power plant near Libya's largest oil field, Sarir, deep in the Libyan desert and more than 500 kilometres from Tripoli.