PRIME Minister David Cameron urged Britons remaining in Libya to “leave now” as he insisted his Government had done everything it could to help UK citizens out of a country descending further into violence and bloodshed.
The Government believes up to 500 British nationals still remain in the North African state and fears are growing for up to 170 oil workers stranded in remote and highly vulnerable desert camps.
The latest charter plane to evacuate dozens of Britons left the capital, Tripoli, for Gatwick Airport at 4.30pm yesterday. It was carrying 79 passengers, including 34 from Britain. Another charter flight will depart from Tripoli today and Mr Cameron said there would be more planes made available if necessary.
A second Royal Navy ship, HMS York, has also been deployed to the area. HMS Cumberland, which left Libya’s second city Benghazi with 68 Britons on Thursday, has had its voyage delayed by poor conditions at sea.
As thousands of people from across the world attempted to flee Tripoli, fighting between supporters and opponents of dictator Col Muammar Gaddafi escalated yesterday. Britons returning home told how Libya was plunging into chaos and spoke of the terror of being stranded in oilfield camps under the threat of roaming militias.
After heavy criticism of the speed of the Government’s response, Mr Cameron chaired emergency planning meetings with senior Ministers and security advisers yesterday.
He said: “We will do everything we can today and tomorrow to help those people and planning is under way to do just that. That is the message I give very strongly to British citizens in Libya. For those in the desert, we will do everything we can and we are active on that right now to help get you out.”