20.07.2006 General News

At-a-glance: Lebanon evacuations

By bbc
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Thousands of foreign nationals and Lebanese holding dual nationality are being evacuated from Lebanon as Israel's military offensive against Hezbollah continues.

With Beirut airport unusable since early in the campaign, governments around the world have mobilised ships, planes and buses to ferry their citizens to safety.

Current evacuation operations and plans include:

Britain sent two warships to Beirut, and the first 180 evacuees arrived in Cyprus on Wednesday morning. Some 22,000 Britons were in Lebanon when the bombing began, about 10,000 with dual nationality. Three more warships are en route to Lebanon, and about 5,000 are set to leave over the coming days.

The United States chartered a Greek cruise ship, which took about 1,000 US nationals from Beirut to Cyprus on Wednesday under the protection of the destroyer USS Gonzalez. In addition, six CH-53 helicopters are evacuating citizens with special needs to Cyprus. They will aim to air-lift out 300 people per day. It is estimated 5,000 to 10,000 of the 25,000 Americans in Lebanon will opt to be evacuated.

France flew home about 800 evacuees from Cyprus on Tuesday, and a further 850 were set to leave for Cyprus by ferry. Some 8,000 French nationals are reported to have requested evacuation, of a total of about 20,000 citizens in the country. Several more French vessels were bound for Beirut.

Australia has bussed at least 200 nationals out via Syria and the UK is said to have evacuated another 100 priority cases. Canberra had hoped to ferry another 300 Australians to Cyprus on Wednesday but reports suggest the chartered Turkish ship had been double-booked. At least 5,000 of the 25,000 Australians in Lebanon have registered to evacuate.

Canada began the evacuation of some of about 30,000 Canadian citizens who have registered with the embassy on Wednesday. Six vessels have been chartered, which will sail from Beirut to Cyprus and Turkey.

Philippines officials were exploring options to remove about 34,000 citizens living in Lebanon, many working there. They were considering chartering ships, but said lack of funds and planning was hampering efforts.

India is sending warships to Lebanon to evacuate up to 12,000 Indians. An estimated 80,000 Sri Lankans also live in Lebanon and the government in Colombo is making evacuation plans.

Up to 10,000 Bangladeshis also live in Lebanon. The government in Dhaka was seeking help to move those who wanted to leave.

On Tuesday Denmark said it estimated it had shuttled 1,700 nationals home, and another 1,200 are awaiting charter flights from Damascus. It said it believed 1,000 Danish could be trapped in southern Lebanon.

Some 1,300 Swedish expatriates have been driven to Syria, most to Aleppo in chartered buses. On Wednesday 188 Swedes arrived in the Turkish port of Mersin, and a further 1,500 were due to leave Beirut by ship for Cyprus. Nearly 5,000 Swedes are thought to have been living in Lebanon.

Spain has evacuated almost all of its citizens from Lebanon, although some 200 are thought to be staying in the country. A chartered plane took about 150 Spaniards from Damascus to Madrid late on Tuesday, and another 152 arrived back after reaching Amman.

Italy evacuated 410 people, mostly Italians, by bus to Syria on Saturday. Most have been flown to Cyprus. An Italian warship has also moved several hundred of an estimated 1,000 Italians from Beirut.

Poland evacuated more than 200 citizens by bus to Damascus, who then flew on to Poland.

German citizens were evacuated in hired buses to Damascus, before flying to Germany in a fleet of military planes. Up to 3,000 sought evacuation, AFP reports.

A Greek ship left Beirut port on Wednesday, reports said, carrying Greek nationals as well as hundreds of EU citizens, including more than 300 Danish citizens.

Several dozen Brazilians have arrived home after being evacuated to Turkey, while officials were planning further missions to move more than 150 nationals who have reached Syria and Jordan.

Other Latin American nations are pooling resources: Venezuela, Colombia and Uruguay were taking about 400 nationals into Syria on Wednesday.

The Austrian foreign ministry estimates that about 100 Austrians have left Lebanon so far, with 120 still there. A group of 19 Austrians who did not arrive in Cyprus for a flight home are expected on Thursday, AFP reports.

Morocco was planning to evacuate several dozen nationals on C130 transport planes.

Russia is ready to co-operate with European nations to help its nationals leave Lebanon. About 270 people reached Syria on Tuesday, with 960 more heading to Damascus before flying to Moscow.

The governments of 1,600 Ukrainians , 1,000 Romanians , 600 Dutch , 500 Bulgarians , 160 Finns and 90 New Zealanders are also arranging passage out of Lebanon for their citizens.

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