MUMBAI/NEW DELHI, Feb 26 � India today began evacuating its nationals stranded in troubled Libya with the first batch being airlifted by a 280-seater Air India plane from Tripoli, reports PTI.
�The flight carrying Indian nationals from Libya took off at 4.10 pm (India time). It is expected to land at New Delhi�s IGI Airport around 11.40 pm tonight,� an Air India official told PTI here.
The number of passengers being carried by the Airbus A-330 was not available immediately. India had also sent a Boeing 747 with a capacity of 360 passengers along with the
Airbus 330 to Tripoli to bring back the Indians, whose number is estimated to be 18,000.
Besides, two Naval ships � INS Jalashwa and INS Mysore � set sail from Mumbai this morning for Libya. The sailing time is about 12 days to that country.
Another passenger ship with a capacity of 1,600, presently in the Mediterranean, is being chartered today and will be pressed into service for assisting the departure of our nationals out of Libya, an External Affairs Ministry statement said.
�Scotia Prince�, another chartered ship, is scheduled to depart for Benghazi (Libya) from Port Said (Egypt) today at 2000 hrs and is likely to arrive at its destination by the afternoon of February 28. The ship has a capacity of 1,200 passengers.
The ministry said it has positioned additional personnel at the Indian Embassy in Tripoli to help in the process.
�Our Mission has worked tirelessly to get this flight organised,� Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said on the microblogging site Twitter.
The government is concerned about the well-being of Indians in view of the deteriorating situation in the country following a popular uprising.
Both the ships � INS Jalashwa and INS Mysore � have been specially equipped for the task with full medical facilities such as operation theatre, doctors and paramedics. The ships are also carrying helicopters and a contingent of marine Special Forces personnel.
The ships will evacuate Indian nationals from Libya to either Malta or Egypt, from where they will be transferred by air to India.
In July 2006, the Indian Navy had similarly evacuated over 2,500 Indians, PIOs and some foreign nationals from Lebanon following the war between Israel and the Hezbollah.
Induction of INS Jalashwa since then has significantly enhanced the capability of the Indian Navy to undertake such humanitarian missions.
After receiving nod from the government, Air India had yesterday announced that it would operate two flights, one each from New Delhi and Mumbai, till March 10 to evacuate Indian nationals caught up in the protests against the Muammar Gaddafi regime.