Nurses trapped in Libya conflict

July 30, 2014 - 1:15:42 am

New Delhi: In a near replay of the incidents in Iraq, large numbers of Indian nurses are caught in spiralling violence in Libya, where rival militant groups seek to control the capital’s international airport, and have approached the Indian mission for help and even evacuation.

Over the last two weeks, the north African country has plunged into chaos following deadly clashes between government forces and Islamist militants in the capital Tripoli and Benghazi where more than 150 people, most of them civilians, have been killed.

Taking note of the fighting, Indian Ambassador in Libya, Azar AH Khan, met the nurses in the Tripoli hospitals and assured them of their safety.

“Everybody is safe here. We are in constant touch with the nurses,” Khan said over phone from Tripoli. The ambassador, however, said that only some nationals, mostly nurses, have approached the embassy for help in leaving the country.

“It is only in some places around the airport where fighting is raging... rest of the places are fine,” he said.

Panic gripped the Indian nationals after incessant shelling rocked the area around Tripoli airport and elsewhere, in a two week-long battle since mid-July.

However, of the 430 Indian nurses based in two hospitals in Tripoli, only 88 have sought help from the Indian mission.

A total of 365 nurses are based in Tripoli Medical Centre (TMC), while 71 medical staff members, comprising technicians, paramedics and nurses, are based in Tripoli’s Al Khadra hospital, an embassy official said.

Nearly 74 out of 365 in TMC have shown their inclination to leave the country, added the envoy. The embassy has been arranging for passports and other travel documents for all those who want to exit Libya by road.

Also, some 350 nurses are located in Benghazi, another restive city in eastern Libya, but only a few have wished to leave their place.Ambassador Khan said the number of those wanting to leave the country keeps fluctuating as people have financial issues, apart from their own safety.

Meanwhile, P Sudeep, chief executive officer of Norka, the state agency that looks after the welfare of non-resident Keralites, said the agency has opened a counter for the nurses or their near and dear ones to get in touch with it.

“Through this, we got a list of 114 nurses from our state who are working in Tripoli and another four in Benghazi. They have expressed their desire to return to Kerala, as violence has broken out there,” said Sudeep