|Chinese nationals evacuated from Libya are seen smiling after boarding a plane flying back to China in the Greek island of Crete, March 2, 2011. (Xinhua/Xie Xuemin)
BEIJING, March 3 (Xinhua) -- A total of 35,860 Chinese citizens had been evacuated from Libya up to 23:10 Wednesday Beijing time (1510 GMT), according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Among them, 20,745 are already back in China, Vice Foreign Minister Song Tao said.
All Chinese who desired to return to China and whose whereabouts were known by the foreign ministry have been evacuated from Libya, Song said, adding it was the largest and the most complicated overseas evacuation ever conducted by the Chinese government since 1949.
On Wednesday morning local time, the Greek-flagged merchant ship "El. Venizelos" carrying 2,141 Chinese evacuees from Libya docked at the southern Greek island of Crete, which means 14,000 working staff of Chinese companies in Libya, including Bangladeshi and Vietnamese employees, had been evacuated by Chinese cargo ships or Greek liners chartered by the Chinese government.
According to Chinese Ambassador to Greece Luo Linquan, with six airliners coming from China to Crete each day, plus another two chartered Greek planes, all the Chinese evacuees in Crete are expected to return home by Friday.
As of Wednesday night, four Chinese military transporters had successfully evacuated over 1,700 Chinese citizens from Libya to Khartoum of Sudan, where they will temporarily stay before returning to China.
The first aircraft left an airport in northwest China's Urumqi on Feb. 28 and flew over 9,500 km to Libya for the mission, arriving in Libya at 0:35 Wednesday Beijing Time (1635 Tuesday GMT).
At midnight Wednesday, the last plane chartered by the Chinese embassy in Turkey took off from Istanbul, carrying the last 188 of a total of 1,506 Chinese evacuees in Turkey back home.
The evacuees, most of whom came from China's Anhui, Shandong and Jiangsu provinces, first took chartered flights from southern Libya to Istanbul, where they boarded planes bound for three major Chinese cities -- Beijing, Shanghai,and Guangzhou, before eventually returning to their native towns, said Chinese Ambassador to Turkey Gong Xiaosheng.
On Wednesday four chartered flights of China Eastern Airlines and Shanghai Airlines left Malta, bringing home 998 more Chinese citizens evacuated from unrest-hit Libya and adding the total number of Chinese evacuees back home from Malta to 4,061.
Another three chartered flights are expected on Thursday, the Chinese Embassy in Malta said. Since Feb. 26, some 4,800 Chinese citizens have been evacuated from Libya to the Mediterranean island.
Throughout the evacuation, countries like Greece, Malta, Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey and Jordan have kindly offered their help in either providing transportation or facilitating temporary shelter.
Vice Foreign Minister Song said the Chinese government would continue to send chartered planes to bring back those Chinese taking temporary shelter in foreign countries.