Wednesday 7 December 2016

Oil worker escapes 'scene out of hell' in Libya on last plane

Grainne Cunningham

Published 01/03/2011 | 05:00

AN Irishman who was on the last British plane out of Tripoli has told how the situation at the airport was "like a scene out of hell".

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Michael Dempsey, a father of five from Athlone, Co Westmeath, was working on the Waha oilfield in the desert, 1,200km from the Libyan capital, when the protests began.

He, another Irishman and two British workers managed to get to Tripoli on board a small twin-engine Otter plane.

"It wasn't too bad until we got to the airport. It was like a scene out of hell. There were about 5,000 people in a place big enough for 1,000 inside and about 10,000 outside," he said.

"The police were just baton-charging them. . . I would say there are people dead at the airport. We were very lucky to get out."

Mr Dempsey is now safely back in Athlone.

When he and the other three ex-pats arrived at the airport, they had to find the British embassy staff, who knew they were coming.

"There was this man standing there with a British flag; he was like a fly in the middle of the crowd," Mr Dempsey said.

He got a seat on a Hercules plane at 7pm on Sunday and was told it would be the last one to leave the airport.

"Every seat was taken," he said.

He flew to Gatwick, London, where he was met by Irish embassy officials and provided with a hotel room. He arranged his own flight home yesterday.

However, he said he would return to Libya once the unrest has quietened down.

Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs has said the chances of getting out of the north-African state are diminishing but only a handful of Irish remain there.

The EU co-ordinated evacuation operation is ending but the Irish civil assistance team remains on standby.

Liaising

Two Irish families were on the British naval vessel HSS Cumberland, which reached the Maltese port of Valletta yesterday.

Another family group is making its way overland to Algeria. The department is liaising with both groups.

Department spokesman Philip Grant said a handful of Irish had elected to remain in Libya. He said they were either holders of dual Irish/Libyan citizenship or Irish people married to Libyans, who were resident there.

Despite problematic communications links, the department has been able to make daily contact with those staying in Libya.

Libya latest: Page 30

Irish Independent

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