Spain sends plane to airlift Egyptians fleeing Libya
Spain sent a plane to Tunisia on Thursday to ferry aid and help airlift home thousands of Egyptians fleeing unrest in Libya, the foreign ministry said.
The plane, a twinjet McDonnell Douglas MD-82, will carry out three daily flights between the Tunisian island of Dejerba near the border with Libya and Cairo to bring Egyptian nationals home, the ministry said in a statement.
It is expected to transport some 4,000 people over the next week, it added.
"The time that it will stay in the country will depend on how the conflict evolves and the number of dissplaced people, as well as what other alternative means of evacuation are available to allow the return of the greatest number of Egyptian citizens to their country and relieve border pressure," it said.
Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez was on hand as the plane took off from a military airbase at Torrejon de Ardoz near Madrid with five tonnes of humanitarian aid, including 400 kilos (880 pounds) of medicine, 900 blankets and 40 field tents.
The Pratt & Whitney-powered MD-82 has a maximum non-stop range of 2,052 nautical miles (3,798 km) and can carry up to 172 passengers depending on the cabin configuration.
Escaping the unrest in Libya, growing numbers of people have fled over the northwestern border into Tunisia, including Egyptians now stuck in refugee camps with little prospect of getting home.
Britain is sending several planes to airlift thousands of Egyptians stuck in refugee camps, while France said it was sending a helicopter carrier to waters off Libya to help evacuate civilians.
© 2011 AFP