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20 Jul, 2006 05:38

Lebanon pullout: the desperate flee

Lebanon pullout: the desperate flee

One of the largest evacuations since the Second World War is underway in the Middle East. Helicopters, warships and ferries are packed with people desperate to escape the violence.

Governments around the world moved quickly to help terrified citizens. With Beirut's airport in tatters, many foreigners have taken the land route to Syria to escape Israeli bombs, missiles and artillery fire. Others wait to be brought out by ship or helicopter to Cyprus. Britain, the United States, France and Canada sent warships and chartered ferries to the Cypriot port of Larnaca, to take their citizens home. Chinese, Australian, Italian, Indian and Swedish citizens have also been moved to safety.

Around 5,000 Britons, 10,000 Americans and thousands of Canadians have opted for evacuation, and will leave in the next few days. Hundreds are back home thanks to help from the Russian government, though many remain in Lebanon awaiting assistance. Russia’s embassy in Lebanon is also helping citizens from former Soviet republics. Belarus has no embassy in Beirut, and the Moldovan embassy wants money from its citizens before helping them leave.

The embassy in Lebanon is working round the clock to organise more buses from Beirut to the airport of Latakia. Twenty buses evacuated Russian citizens on Wednesday. Children, pregnant women and people from the south of Lebanon were first to be taken out. The process is expected to continue for several days.