Other Countries Evacuated Lebanon Quickly and Smoothly

Jul 19, 2006 9:48am

Americans in Lebanon are finally boarding cruise ships to Cyprus today after patiently waiting for the Department of State to begin an evacuation process. While they waited, other countries implemented programs quickly to get their citizens to safety. Italy implemented its crisis program faster than any other nation, organizing buses to Syria on July 16, where approximately 600 citizens boarded military planes to Cyprus or directly to Italy — all free of charge. "The crises unit in Rome works very well. Also, we have a strong tradition of operation in the Middle East…especially…with Syria," explained a representative from the Italian Consulate in Washington, D.C. A representative from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rome expressed shock at the prospect of charging its citizens for protection and safety, "This is a humanitarian operation. Why would we?" U.S. citizens were initially going to be charged for their travel, but that policy was changed last night after much outcry. France also took hasty measures to accommodate its citizens during the crisis. The United States and France alike have approximately 21,000 registered citizens in Lebanon, however, France has been able to evacuate at a much faster rate. While not all French citizens have registered to leave, around 700 on Tuesday traveled to Cyprus on a charted boat and were joined by 50 Americans. Furthermore, the Ministry of International Affairs has chartered a rotation of planes traveling from Cyprus to Paris. "Evacuations are part of public service," said Yann Battefort from the French Consulate in New York City. Canada, which accounts for about 30,000 registered citizens, has also sent seven commercial vessels to Cyprus or Turkey. The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is working with Air Canada to charter planes back to Canada. Similar to Italy, Norway has evacuated its citizens in record speed. Two-thirds of Norwegian citizens already left Lebanon Sunday on chartered ships to Cyprus. Representatives from Sweden, Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark and Turkey have also confirmed to ABC News their free and extensively organized evacuation plans. The slow U.S. evacuation process has not gone unnoticed by U.S. lawmakers. "It’s too bad this is being treated as a mini-Katrina. These people are being stranded," Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) said yesterday. Faerlie Wilson, a 24-year-old American working for Executive Magazine in Beirut, recounted her experience, "A lot of people are really frustrated because the U.S. is doing such a poor job compared to other foreign embassies. Everyone here has friends from other countries that have been evacuated days ago."

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