Air force planes fly out to bring Chinese home

08:13, March 01, 2011      

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China is sending four military transport planes - Ilyushin Il-76s - to evacuate 5,000 of its citizens from Libya, the Ministry of National Defense said yesterday.

Two planes took off from Urumqi yesterday afternoon and are expected to reach the town of Sabha in central Libya today after a 9,500 kilometer journey.

It is the first time the Chinese air force has played a role in evacuating citizens from other countries.

China last week took the unprecedented step of dispatching a navy missile frigate on anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden to waters off Libya to protect citizens being evacuated.

The navy frigate the "Xuzhou is expected to arrive in waters off Libya tomorrow to provide support and protection for ships evacuating Chinese nationals, Xinhua news agency reported.

Almost 29,000 Chinese had been evacuated from Libya, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday. The majority are in third countries.

Thousands of Chinese have traveled overland to neighboring Egypt and Tunisia, while others traveled by chartered ferry to Greece and Malta.

China's civil aviation regulator is to send five more chartered planes a day to pick up Chinese citizens evacuated from Libya from today.

China Eastern Airlines, Air China, China Southern Airlines and Hainan Airlines will send a total of 20 chartered planes to pick up nearly 6,000 Chinese every day till March 10, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said.

Air China will send seven planes a day to Crete, China Eastern will send four to Malta and one to the Tunisian island of Djerba, China Southern will send five to Tunisia and Hainan Air will send two to Greece and one to Egypt.

Two China Eastern planes landed in Shanghai at 12:39pm and 1:43pm yesterday, carrying 558 Chinese evacuees, the Shanghai-based carrier said. It had brought back a total of 1,108 Chinese citizens from Libya as of yesterday.

A China Southern plane also landed in Shanghai yesterday.

As of 10am yesterday, about 2,500 Chinese had been flown back to China, while 23,000 are being temporarily accommodated in third countries and 3,400 were on their way to third countries, the Foreign Ministry said.

By Winny Wang, Shanghai Daily
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