Launching the evacuation of Indians from trouble-torn Libya, an Air India flight carrying the first batch of 291 people from Tripoli landed here late tonight even as 67 Indians crossed over to Egypt by road and were taken to Cairo on their way back home.
The Air India Boeing carrying the 291 people touched down at the Indira Gandhi International Airport shortly before midnight after a nearly 8-hour flight from the Libyan capital.
The plane landed at the dysfunctional T2 International termainal where special arrangements were made for immigration and customs clearances of the passengers.
Minister of State for External Affairs E Aahmed and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao received the passengers who were helped by Resident Commissioners of 12 states, including Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and officials of External Affairs and Overseas Indian Affairs Ministries at the terminal which was made functional in just two days.
Special railway and air ticket counters were set up at the terminal to help the returnees book their onward journey.
The Boeing flight carrying the Indian nationals from Libya took off at 4.10 PM (Indian Time).
An Air India Airbus 330 with a capacity of 300 also left the Libyan capital at 8.15 PM (Indian time) for New Delhi where it is expected to reach Delhi at around 3AM on Sunday.
The total number of Indians in Libya is estimated to be 18,000.
As the first plane carrying the Indians left Tripoli, a group of 67 Indians, including 11 children and 2 infants, crossed over from Tabrouk, Libya, to Salloum, Egypt, by road where they were received by Indian Embassy officials who facilitated their immigration into Egypt.
Emergency travel documents were issued to 11 Indians who reached Salloum by road without passports.
The 67 people were taken by two buses to the Egyptian capital where the Embassy has made arrangements for their accommodation and food.
All of them have been booked by the Embassy by a Gulf Air flight which will reach Mumbai at 0505 hours Indian time on Monday, an External Affairs Ministry statement said in Delhi late tonight.
Another group of 80 Indian nationals from Derna/Baida area of Libya are expected to cross over to Egypt on Monday.
Some other Indians in Libya are also trying to cross into Tunisia by land route and arrangements are being made by the Indian Embassy in Tunisia for their onward road journey to Tunis before being airlifted back to India.
Two Naval ships INS Jalashwa and INS Mysore set sail from Mumbai this morning for Libya. The journey time is about twelve days to that country.
Another passenger ship with a capacity of 1600, now in the Mediterranean, is being chartered today and will be pressed into service for assisting the departure of our nationals out of Libya, an External Affairs Ministry statement said.
Scotia Prince, another chartered ship, is already on its way to Libya) and will transport the Indians to a safer destination from where they will be airlifted, Shipping Minister G K Vasan said in Chennai.
The ship has a capacity of 1200 passengers.