Evacuations from Lebanon gather pace
19 July 2006, BRUSSELS — The first 32 Belgian evacuees from Lebanon arrived back in Belgium on Tuesday night and more are to be evacuated on Wednesday.
19 July 2006
BRUSSELS — The first 32 Belgian evacuees from Lebanon arrived back in Belgium on Tuesday night and more are to be evacuated on Wednesday.
A Belgian-chartered plane landed at the Melsbroek air base at about 6.30pm carrying 136 passengers who had fled Lebanon to Cyprus on board a French-chartered ferry.
Among the evacuees were 32 Belgians and their children. Italian, German, French and American embassy officials greeted the other foreign evacuees.
It was initially hoped that the ferry would evacuate 60 Belgians, but 16 of them were unable to board the ship at the last moment.
The captain closed the doors of the ship earlier than planned because Israeli fighter jets were seen flying above the Beirut port and the captain decided to take no chances.
Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht said the evacuation from Lebanon was "a difficult operation", newspaper 'De Standaard' reported.
But the ministry also said the 16 Belgians who were not evacuated will be able to leave Lebanon on Wednesday, when the same French ferry will arrive back in Beirut to pick up more evacuees.
About 60 Belgians are expected to board the ship this time around, including the governor of the Belgian National Bank, Guy Quaden, his wife and two sons.
The Belgian embassy is also organising a convoy of buses on Wednesday to take 180 people by road to Syria.
But it will not be an easy journey because Israeli jets bombed the main road between Lebanon and Syria on Tuesday. "No where is really safe," a foreign ministry spokesman said.
Of the 80 Belgians who were staying in southern Lebanon, several dozen of them have remained, but the foreign ministry is urging them to travel up to Beirut.
Elsewhere, the evacuation of foreigners is gathering speed, with hundreds of Swedes, Finnish and Norwegians to be evacuated on a Swedish ship.
A large French ship — with room for 30 Belgians — arrived in Beirut on Tuesday. British nationals have also been evacuated and large-scale US evacuations started on Wednesday.
[Copyright Expatica News 2006]
Subject: Belgian news