Mon, Jul 24, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Evacuations continue, UN calls for aid

APPEAL While more foreigners flee to Cyprus, the UN's humanitarian chief called for financial aid to support the more than 500,000 that have been displaced in Lebanon

AGENCIES , LARNACA, CYPRUS

A picture taken yesterday in a southern Beirut neighborhood shows destruction following Israeli air strikes in the area. UN humanitarian coordinator Jan Egeland arrived in Beirut yesterday to launch an appeal for millions of dollars in aid to help the half million civilians displaced by Israel's onslaught, a UN official said.

PHOTO: AFP

Cyprus braced to take in nearly 10,000 more fugitives from Lebanon yesterday as the UN appealed for urgent international aid for the far greater numbers of people left behind.

About 14 vessels were expected to dock at the Cypriot ports of Larnaca and Limassol yesterday and today, part of a days-old mass evacuation already involving more than 25,000 people from dozens of countries that shows no signs of slowing.

More than 1,000 weary Canadians walked ashore in the sticky Cypriot summer night. Women tried to pacify screaming infants as they lined up to enter a cramped reception center.

"We are really tired, it has been a very long trip ... Many more people could not leave, the boats were simply too crowded," Cynthia Eid, a student, said.

Elie Coriaty, 51, an engineering consultant from Montreal, said Canada had been slower to act than some other countries.

"The Canadians were behind for the first few days ... but now it is picking up ... They are making up for lost time," he said.

Two ships carrying nearly 2,000 Americans docked in Limassol, adding to the nearly 8,000 the Pentagon said had already been evacuated from Lebanon via Cyprus and Turkey.

Many Americans were still stuck at a makeshift camp in a fairground in the Cypriot capital Nicosia awaiting chartered planes to fly them home.

By contrast, an estimated 5,000 British evacuees passing through the British air force base at Akrotiri in southern Cyprus were swiftly processed and flown home.

"The state of the people coming through has got worse with time. One man came through without shoes. We gave another man a toothbrush and he just burst into tears," said Olivia Draper, one of several British volunteers helping out at the base.

Britain has said its final official maritime evacuation would be completed yesterday.

"I hope they can do something for the people who are still there [in Lebanon] to get them out. I just cannot believe they would just leave them there," said volunteer Ann MacDougall, a pensioner from Wiltshire who lives in Cyprus.

Lieutenant Colonel John Brown, commanding officer of the 27th transport regiment, said a final scheduled helicopter flight to pick up evacuees would leave the airbase yesterday and return with 300 people.

Not all the people in Larnaca port were fleeing Lebanon.

Hule Zide, 45, a laboratory assistant, was one of dozens of Lebanese heading back to their country yesterday aboard a French-chartered boat. Israeli forces have cratered Beirut airport's runways, making the return more difficult.

"I love my country, I have my job, I have my mom and dad, my family. I have to work and I have to support them," said Zide, who had been on holiday in Paris when the war started.

Meanwhile, the UN's humanitarian chief said on Saturday it would take more than US$100 million to help the hundreds of thousands of Lebanese who have been hurt or displaced since the Israeli bombings began more than a week ago.

Addressing reporters in Cyprus ahead of his trip to the Middle East, Jan Egeland said he would launch an international appeal for the next three months "urging, begging" the international community for contributions.

"It's already a very major crisis," he said, adding that more than 500,000 people have either been forced to flee or are trapped -- a number destined to grow dramatically.

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