Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

First Britons to Flee Beirut with Navy Arrive in Cyprus

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

First Britons to Flee Beirut with Navy Arrive in Cyprus

Article excerpt

Byline: JASON BEATTIE;JOE MURPHY

THE FIRST group of Britons to be rescued by sea from Lebanon arrived in Cyprus this morning.

HMS Gloucester docked in Limassol shortly after 7.20am carrying the "most needy" evacuees.

The 170 passengers disembarked looking tired after a 12-hour voyage but relieved to have escaped the terror of Beirut.

Most were small children, led down the gangplank by hand or carried by their parents. From the ship's hold, sailors carried pushchairs, holdalls and flower-patterned suitcases.

Up to 5,000 British nationals are expected to be ferried to safety by six Navy ships this week.

HMS Gloucester's captain, Commander Mike Patterson, said the evacuees had been "pretty buoyant" and in "good spirits".

On arrival they were taken to the RAF base at Akrotiri, from where they will be flown to Britain on a Government-chartered flight later today.

The Government had been criticised for the slowness of its evacuation compared with efforts mounted by France and Italy. One Briton, Maya Kaaki from Cheshire, said she was "disgusted" by the way they had been treated.

"The French got hundreds of their people out yesterday, many Greeks left days before that, but it has taken this long for the first British ship to come. The bombs have been getting closer and closer," she said. Foreign Office officials insisted the rescue operation was now in full swing.

A second Type 42 destroyer, HMS York, is expected to bring more Britons to Cyprus later today. Commander Patterson said contact had been made with Israel and the Lebanese govenrnment to ensure safe passage. He said a Type 42 destroyer was "more than capable of defending itself ".

The High Commissioner to Cyprus, Peter Millet, defended the evacuation.

"This is an effort that has been based on safety and security. …

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