New Delhi, Feb 24: Government today decided to immediately commence evacuation of Indians from Libya by sea and air in view of the "sharp and unprecedented deterioration" in the situation in the African nation which is witnessing anti-government protests that have claimed 300 lives so far.
"Evacuation is being arranged by sea and air. Government has chartered a passenger ferry with capacity to seat 1200 persons for this purpose. The ship, "Scotia Prince", is already in Egypt and readying for sail to Benghazi which will be the initial focus of the evacuation operations," the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement here.
There are about 18,000 Indians in that country with majority of them living in Tripoli which is one of the worst-affected cities due to the protests.
"Let me assure the nation that all Indians are safe and all those Indians who are willing to be evacuated will be evacuated safely and without any expenditure incurred by them," External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said.
He said all possible arrangements were being made to evacuate Indians who are willing to get out of Libya, which has been rocked by protests against the Gaddafi regime.
MEA personnel and medical team will be on board to assist the evacuees, the statement said.
"SCOTIA PRINCE is expected to reach Benghazi by February 27 and bring back at least 1200 persons to Alexandria (Egypt) by March 1. They would be flown home from Alexandria thereafter, by special Air India flights, which are being arranged," it said.
In Tripoli, the focus will be on air evacuation, it said, adding that aircraft are on stand by for this purpose as Libyan landing clearance is awaited and should be received soon.
"Preparations are also in hand for evacuation of our nationals from cities in the interior where air access is possible subject to Libyan clearance," the ministry said.
Indian companies, many of whom are based in Libya for decades, have also offered to work with the Indian Embassy in Tripoli in facilitating evacuation, he said.
MEA is also coordinating closely with other Ministries including Defence, Overseas Indian Affairs and Shipping in making evacuation arrangements.
Round-the-clock situation rooms in MEA and the Indian Mission in Tripoli are functioning smoothly and addressing queries from families of our citizens in Libya.
"Our Embassies in Egypt and Tunisia are also alert to the situation and extending all assistance," the ministry said. PTI