Foreign gov'ts evacuating citizens

International citizens fleeing Lebanon for Cyprus by the masses, embassies helping.

By JENNY MERKIN, YAEL WOLYNETZ
July 18, 2006 17:17
3 minute read.
Foreign gov'ts evacuating citizens

us navy warship 298. (photo credit: US Navy Photo by Mr. Paul Farley)

People were fleeing Lebanon for Cyprus by the masses on Tuesday as the embassies of various countries offered their citizens aid in evacuating the warring region. Since as early as Monday, the United States, Canada, Sweden, Italy, Great Britain, Finland, and France had organized various modes of transportation to evacuate their citizens from Lebanon to Cyprus. As reported by the Associated Press, the United States sent a cruise ship, the Orient Queen, which had the capacity to carry 750 passengers to Cyprus. However, as of Tuesday night, the ship had still not arrived in Beirut. The ship was anticipated to come by Wednesday. Americans in Lebanon were frustrated by the delay. 8,000 of 25,000 Americans in Lebanon had reportedly requested aid in evacuating; 120 Americans left by helicopter and 200 students via a European ship. Italy was among the first countries to react to the requests of its citizens. The embassy and the Italian Foreign Ministry organized two operations to evacuate its citizens. The first was on Saturday, when 270 Italians and 230 others trekked to the Syrian port city of Latakia, The fleeing internationals then flew to Cyprus, and from there they flew directly on Alitalia commercial airplanes to various destinations. The Italian Embassy organized another evacuation plan that consisted of Italians leaving by ship from Beirut Harbor to Cyprus on Monday. By Tuesday, approximately 450 Italians had left Lebanon. No further evacuation operations had been planned, but "things are constantly changing, so we are always evaluating how the situation is evolving," said a representative from the Press Office of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Currently, no evacuation plan has been organized for Italian citizens in Israel. 8,000 of the 20,000 French citizens in Lebanon asked the French Embassy to aid them in leaving the country. A Greek cruise ship evacuated more than 800 French citizens late Monday, arriving in Cyprus on Tuesday. A flight from Cyprus carrying 420 French citizens was scheduled to land at 6 PM Paris Standard Time on Tuesday at Charles De Gaulle Airport, and a second flight was scheduled to land at 6 AM on Wednesday. The British Foreign Ministry evacuated 70 of the most vulnerable nationals to Cyprus on Monday and began transporting other citizens there by a vessel on Tuesday. Four other vessels were on their way to Beirut Harbor. "We are organizing an evacuation in a safe and organized manner," said a spokesperson from the British Foreign Office. Some British nationals will remain in Cyprus, some will travel to different destinations, and some will fly directly to London. Six chartered passenger ships will be in position on Wednesday off the Coast of Lebanon from the port of Beirut, to begin evacuating the 25,000 Canadians living in Lebanon. The event promises to become the biggest evacuation of its citizens in Canadian history. Upon arrival, Canadians will be transported to aircrafts and flown to Canada. "No order of evacuation has been issued," explained a spokesperson from the British Foreign Office. "That doesn't mean that the situation isn't serious. What is happening is at the requests of those who feel in danger of their lives." As more people fled Lebanon for Cyprus, hotel rooms were being booked to accommodate the new arrivals. The Hilton Cyprus in Nicosia, Cyprus, had 30 to 40 rooms slotted for Tuesday night. An employee from the Holiday Inn in Nicosia said that the hotel had received quite a few reservations booked by different countries. "Many people have already arrived and continue to arrive at all hours. They seem quite distressed," elaborated the employee. Most employees of hotels declined to comment to protect the confidentiality of their visitors.


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