Chinese evacuees from Libya finally relieved on Greek island

10:33, February 28, 2011      

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Chinese nationals evacuated from Libya walk out of the Greek vessel "Hellenic Spirit" charted by the Chinese government as they arrive in the southern Greek island of Crete, Feb. 27, 2011. The Greek vessel "Hellenic Spirit", which carried over 2,000 Chinese and Vietnamese evacuated from Libya, arrived in the Crete Island on Sunday. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)

Joy and relief were the general sentiments when 1,895 Chinese and over 220 Vietnamese nationals arrived at Greece's Crete island from unrest-wracked Libya Sunday on board a chartered rescue ship.

As Hellenic Spirit anchored at this port on the Mediterranean island, the passengers, mostly employees of China Communication Constructions Engineering Company, were happily overwhelmed by the safe ending of their life-threatening adventure during the past few days.

During the voyage, they told Xinhua that since the North African country plunged into unrest, their construction site, approximately 70 km from the eastern port city of Benghazi, was repeatedly ransacked by unidentified gunmen.

They said that they had to use all possible kinds of makeshift means to defend themselves, including ditching around their compound to stop vehicles from breaking in and using iron sticks to fight attackers.x Two years into the project, the construction team had kept good ties with local residents. But over the past two weeks, the situation was getting worse and worse, and some of the houses they were constructing were suddenly claimed by local radicals.

With most forms of communication cut off for days, it was on satellite television that they heard of the ongoing large-scale rescue operation carried out the Chinese government to withdraw them from Libya.

On early Friday morning, these workers got in cars, buses and all other types of vehicles available rushing to Benghazi, recalled Xu Zhiqiang, a senior manager of the construction project.

Some of the vehicles were stopped and taken away en route by gunmen, and some of their passports were lost or destroyed, he added.

After they arrived, the fleeing workers quickly boarded the Greek vessel with the help of officials from the Chinese embassy in Athens, which chartered the ship.

Once on board, the evacuees were given food, water, first aid and warm places to rest. But before they had enough time to relax, big waves caused by the bad weather threw them into a rough journey.

As Hellenic Spirit became increasingly shaky, bottles were overturned, TV sets and chairs were dropped on the floor, and many of the passengers became sea sick.

But the overwhelming feelings on the Greek vessel were excitement and relief over their rescue, mixed with anxiousness to inform their families that they were safe and would soon return home.

When the rescue ship approached Crete on Sunday under heavy rain, exhausted but smiling workers realized that they could finally be at ease now.

They joined the over 8,000 Chinese who had already returned to safety on this Greek island via chartered Greek ships. The next thing they had to do was wait for chartered flights back home.

Source: Xinhua

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