Rescue ferry finally sails out

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Bad weather is hampering evacuation efforts in Libya (AP)

The ordeal of hundreds of foreigners stuck on a ferry for three days has ended as their ship finally left a Libyan port.

But thousands of Chinese workers hoping to be evacuated from the chaos are still stranded by rough sea.

The Maria Dolores, carrying 167 US citizens and 118 other foreigners, left Tripoli’s As-shahab port for Valetta, Malta.

Its passengers have been aboard the catamaran since Wednesday but high seas prevented it from leaving. The voyage to Malta was expected to take some eight hours, said Hanri Salia, managing director of Virtu Ferries which leased the ferry to the US government.

Tens of thousands of foreigners are trying to flee Libya, with Turks and Chinese climbing aboard ships by the thousands.

Europeans are mostly boarding evacuation flights while North Africans race to border crossings in overcrowded vans.

European countries scrambled to send more ships and military planes.

China dispatched a navy ship to support the evacuation of its citizens. An estimated 30,000 Chinese live in Libya.

The bad weather forced Greece to suspend the evacuation of thousands of Chinese to the island of Creteon Friday but about 6,000 Chinese nationals were expected at Cretan ports on Saturday.

British naval ship HMS Cumberland, which sailed from Benghazi on Thursday afternoon for Malta, carried 207 evacuees, including 68 Britons. The trip usually takes at least 15 hours but was expected to take hours longer because of rough seas. Prime Minister David Cameron said a second warship – HMS York – was being sent to waters close to Libya to help with rescue missions.

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