Libya ferry rescue bid delayed

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Bad weather is hampering evacuation efforts in Libya (AP)

Hundreds of foreign nationals are facing a third day of being unable to leave Libya due to rough seas.

The foreigners have been waiting aboard the Maria Dolores at Tripoli’s As-shahab port since Wednesday.

The US State Department said in a tweet that 167 US citizens and 118 people from other countries were on the ferry which hopes to depart at the earliest on Friday afternoon. It will take at least six hours for it to reach Valetta, Malta.

High winds have also affected Turkish military planes involved in the evacuation effort, although the country has so far evacuated nearly 8,000 of its 25,000-30,000 nationals, most of whom work in construction projects.

Tens of thousands of foreigners are trying to flee the chaos in Libya, with Turks and Chinese climbing aboard ships by the thousands, Europeans mostly boarding evacuation flights and North Africans racing to border crossings in overcrowded vans.

European countries scrambled to send more ships and military planes to the North African nation.

Greece had to overcome serious hurdles to obtain landing clearance to evacuate 230 Greeks from Libya to Athens early on Friday.

“It was total chaos on every level, and quite troubling for the people involved. But we got our people out,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Dollis, who travelled to Libya to co-ordinate the effort.

“It took us three days just to get clearance to land (in Tripoli and two regional airports). It’s difficult to get permission when when no one is running the country.”

Meanwhile, up to 15,000 Chinese – about half the number of Chinese working in Libya on construction and oil projects – are expected to arrive by ferry in Crete and fly home on chartered flights. China said it was sending a navy ship to protect its citizens being evacuated.

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