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First batch of evacuees from Libya reach Delhi

Indian Navy ships have also sailed to the strife-torn north African nation of Libya to help in the evacuation of the 18,000 Indians in the country.

New Delhi: The first batch of nearly 300 Indians evacuated from the strife-torn north African nation of Libya landed here in a special Air India flight close to midnight Saturday, officials said.

"The first plane, a Boeing 747, carrying 291 passengers from (Libyan capital) Tripoli landed here by 11.55 pm. It took off at 4.30 pm from there," a senior Air India official said.

The plane was brought to Terminal 2, the erstwhile international terminal of the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) which is currently used for special purposes like processing of Haj passengers. It has been specially leased from Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL), which operates the airport.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao was present at the airport.

She told media persons she visited the airport to receive "our citizens" who were returning from Libya on the specially arranged Air India flight.

Officials said special arrangements had been made for the returning Indians. Food had been arranged for them, as well as telephone facilities so they could contact their families.

Counters had been set up to arrange rail and air tickets for them to travel to their hometowns, while officials from at least 12 states` resident commissioner`s offices were present for any further help they may need.

The second plane, an Airbus A330, was to follow soon and land later on Sunday, the Air India official said.

Meanwhile, three Indian Navy ships have also sailed to Libya to help in the evacuation of the 18,000 Indians in the country, while the external affairs ministry said another passenger ship, presently in the Mediterranean Sea, is being chartered for evacuation and expected to reach Libya`s Benghazi on Monday.

The special flights, two in a day, will bring back Indians stranded in Libya, where a revolt against the Muammar Gaddafi government has turned violent, so far claiming over 1,000 lives.

The specially chartered Air India Boeing 747 with a capacity of 360 passengers, and an Airbus 330 with a capacity of 280, will return to New Delhi, landing at Terminal 2, after picking up passengers at Tripoli, the external affairs ministry said Saturday.

Additional personnel are in position at the Indian embassy in Tripoli to enhance the manpower strength of the mission, a ministry release said.

Another passenger ship with a capacity of 1,600, presently in the Mediterranean, is being chartered on Saturday and will be pressed into service for evacuating Indians, the release added.

The ship, Scotia Prince was scheduled to leave from Port Said (Egypt) on Saturday and likely to arrive at its destination by Monday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Indian Navy`s INS Jalashwa and INS Mysore - specially equipped for the mission with full medical facilities on board, including operation theatres, doctors and paramedical staff, set sail from Mumbai.

The main rescue vessel, INS Jalashwa is a Landing Platform Dock-type amphibious platform particularly designed for sea lift mission and also capable of undertaking humanitarian missions, while INS Mysore is a Delhi Class destroyer.

The ships are also carrying helicopters and a contingent of marine Special Forces personnel.

Another ship, INS Aditya is also accompanying the two rescue ships to provide them the necessary logistics support.

The ships will evacuate Indian nationals from Libya to either Malta or Egypt, from where they will be transferred by air to India.

The rescue fleet is expected to reach Libya in ten days` time, the official said.