PIRAEUS — A Greek navy frigate carrying embassy staff and nearly 200 people from Greece, China and other countries evacuated from the conflict in Libya returned early Saturday to a port near Athens.
Passengers on the frigate Salamis described a deteriorating security situation in the Libyan capital Tripoli, with frequent power and water cuts.
The Greek Defense Ministry the ship transported 77 people from Greece, 78 from China, 10 from Britain, seven from Belgium, one each from Russia and Albania.
The Greek evacuation followed similar action by a number of European countries, as fighting between rival militias in recent weeks.
Poland’s Foreign Ministry said that it has evacuated two dozen Poles and citizens of two other countries. All of Poland’s diplomats have now left the country.
Britain says it will suspend work at its consulate in Tripoli once it has completed assisting the departure of British nationals.
“We were hearing explosions all the time, but the fighting was on the outskirts of Tripoli,” said Mustafa Avocat, a Greek-Libyan accountant, who was holding his crying infant son, moments after stepping off the Greek frigate.
“Things are getting worse. The power is cut 5-7 hours every day. There are water cuts too … and the shops are closed. It’s not somewhere you can raise a family.”
Chinese officials at the port said most of their nationals on the Greek ship worked for Chinese construction and communications companies.
“We really appreciate what Greece did to help us,” Zou Xiao Li, the Chinese Ambassador to Greece, told the AP.
Constantine Koutras, a spokesman for the Greek Foreign Ministry, said moving embassy staff to the port was the most difficult part of the operation.
“I was on the phone to our charge d’affaires at the embassy to get an update and I could hear the sound of gunfire in the background,” he told state TV.
“So in places like this and in these kind of situations there is a very small difference between things going well and going very, very badly,” he added.
(DEREK GATOPOULOS and THEODORA TONGAS)
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