Chinese citizens evacuated from Libya disembark at Iraklion of Crete, Greece, Feb 27, 2011. About 2,000 Chinese citizens and 233 Vietnamese arrived in Crete on the Greek vessel "Hellenic Spirit". [Photo/Xinhua]
BEIJING- China is forging ahead with its all-out effort to evacuate its citizens out of unrest-torn Libya, transporting thousands more back home or to third countries.
By 0200 GMT Monday, some 29,000 Chinese nationals had been pulled out of Libya, among whom about 2,500 had returned to China, and some 23,000 and 3,400 were respectively taking shelter at and heading for other countries, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Chinese aviation authorities said that in the coming days, they would greatly increase the number of chartered flights to Greece, Malta and Tunisia in order to airlift the Chinese evacuees back home as soon as possible.
By Sunday afternoon, over 10,000 Chinese nationals had been ferried from the eastern Libyan port of Benghazi to the Greek island of Crete by three Greek vessels chartered by the Chinese embassy in Athens. More were expected in the coming days.
Among the evacuated, some 1,200 left Crete for China on Sunday night in four Chinese flights chartered by the Chinese government. Another 2,000 would follow on Monday in six chartered flights operated by Chinese and Greek airlines.
Also across the Mediterranean Sea, an ocean liner chartered by the Chinese embassy in Malta arrived at the Maltese capital of Valletta on Monday carrying over 1,600 Chinese evacuees who boarded the vessel at the western Libyan port of Misurata.
These passengers were the second batch shuttled to the island country during China's ongoing large-scale evacuation operation. Nearly half of the first batch of 2,235 who arrived Saturday had already flown back home on Saturday night and Sunday night in chartered flights.
In Tunisia, which borders Libya and has become the destination of flocks of fleeing foreigners, 11,000 Chinese evacuees were staying on the island of Djerba. All of them were well accommodated by the Chinese embassy in Tunisia. Some 350 of them returned to China on Sunday in a chartered flight, and the rest were expected to follow in the coming days.
In Egypt, which also borders Libya, diplomats from the Chinese embassy were staying at a border crossing, ready to receive fleeing Chinese. Over 700 had returned to China via chartered and commercial flights after entering Egypt.
Joining in the evacuation operation were also five marine vessels operated by Chinese companies. One of them left Misurata on Sunday with 559 evacuees and was due to arrive at Crete on early Tuesday morning. The other four were standing by at the port.
Meanwhile, hundreds of others had withdrawn to France, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates, where they received warm greetings and assistance from Chinese embassies.
On Sunday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and the Chinese Foreign Ministry conveyed the Chinese government's sincere gratitude to Greece, Malta, Egypt and Tunisia for helping China in the evacuation efforts.
China was only one of the countries trying to evacuate their nationals from Libya. Authorities of the Tripoli airport told Xinhua Sunday that some 51,000 foreigners had left the country during the past week.
Xinhua reporters saw that the airport was crowed with different nationals trying to flee the country, and many foreign diplomats were helping their compatriots at the scene.
Although overburdened with chartered flights from different countries, the transport hub was operating roughly well, airport authorities told Xinhua, adding that the Libyan government had tightened security measures around the airport.