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Last Updated: Friday, 21 July 2006, 15:27 GMT 16:27 UK
Evacuation from Lebanon
The UK has been evacuating British nationals from Lebanon amid continued fighting between Israel and Hezbollah forces in the south of the country.

HMS IllustriousHMS BulwarkHMS St AlbansRFA Fort VictoriaHMS YorkHMS Gloucester

THE LOGISTICS

  • The government says it is in contact with all of the estimated 12,000 British nationals and 10,000 dual nationals in Lebanon
  • From initial responses, it estimated that about 5,000 of them wanted to leave, but the Foreign Office believes the figure may now be nearer 4,000. It believes most dual nationals opeted to stay, and many ex-pats now living in Lebanon also wsanted to remain
  • People have registered after phoning or e-mailing Foreign Office officials and giving contact details
  • They were told to stand by for short-notice evacuation before the large-scale phased evacuation began on Wednesday
  • Britons were advised to listen to English-speaking radio and television and to check the Foreign Office website for updates
  • The Foreign Office announced on Friday that the scheduled evacuations would end on Saturday

THE OPERATION

The government is not revealing many details for security reasons, but it has confirmed that at least five warships - HMS York, HMS Gloucester, HMS Bulwark, HMS Illustrious, HMS St Albans - plus RFA support vessel Fort Victoria are in the area.

RAF Chinook helicopters have been used to ferry evacuees onto HMS Illustrious, which is acting as a command centre in the Mediterranean, from where they were then flown on to British bases in Cyprus.

The first sea evacuation took place on Tuesday when around 180 of the "highest priority" Britons were taken to Limassol in Cyprus on board HMS Gloucester, which was granted a brief "window" to sail through the Israeli blockade around the port of Beirut.

They were stepped up on Wednesday, when similar arrangements allowed HMS Bulwark to dock in Beirut, and on Friday HMS St Albans and a chartered ferry took over the role.

HMS Gloucester and HMS York have been operating a "shuttle" service between Lebanon and Cyprus.

Beirut's airport and main roads are closed and ports blockaded, and sea evacuation is considered the best option at the moment - although only with co-operation from Lebanon and Israel.

The British ships are ferrying evacuees to Cyprus, some 150 miles away, via the ports of Larnaca and Limassol - journeys of up to 10 or 11 hours.

A rapid deployment team from the Foreign Office is meeting them and supervising onward travel, either back to the UK or in some cases to temporary shelter at RAF bases.

Most of the evacuees have now returned to the UK on flights chartered by the Foreign Office.

HMS GLOUCESTER

HMS Gloucester (MoD)

  • Type 42 destroyer
  • Launched 1982
  • 5,200 tonnes
  • 141m
  • Max speed: 30 knots
  • Twin Sea Dart missile launcher; 114mm Mk 8 gun; two 20mm close-range guns; two Vulcan Phalanx close-in weapons system; two triple anti-submarine torpedo tubes. Lynx MK 8 helicopters.
  • Complement: 312 (max). Can carry 500-750 evacuees in addition to its crew

HMS YORK

HMS York (MoD)

  • Type 42 destroyer
  • Launched 1982
  • 5,200 tonnes
  • 141m
  • Max speed: 30 knots
  • Twin Sea Dart missile launcher; 114mm Mk 8 gun; two 20mm close-range guns; two Vulcan Phalanx close-in weapons system; two triple anti-submarine torpedo tubes. Lynx MK 8 helicopters.
  • Complement: 312 (max). Can carry 500-750 evacuees in addition to its crew

HMS ST ALBANS

HMS St Albans

  • Type 23 frigate
  • Launched 2000
  • 4,900 tonnes
  • 133m long
  • Speed: 28 knots
  • Two Quad Harpoon missile launchers; vertical-launch Sea Wolf anti-missile system; 114mm MK 8 gun; two 30mm close-range guns, and two anti-submarine torpedo tubes. MK 8 Lynx helicopters
  • Complement: 185

HMS ILLUSTRIOUS

HMS Illustrious

  • Aircraft carrier. UK's most powerful warship.
  • Launched 1977
  • 22,000 tonnes
  • 210m long
  • Max speed: 30 knots
  • Three Goalkeeper anti-aircraft/anti-missile systems and two 20mm close-range guns. Can carry Harrier jets and Sea King, Chinook and Merlin helicopters
  • Full complement: 1,100 staff - 726 ship's company and 384 air personnel. Could hold large number of evacuees

HMS BULWARK

HMS Bulwark

  • Amphibious assault ship
  • Launched 2001
  • 18,500 tonnes
  • 176m
  • Speed: 18 knots
  • Two Goalkeeper anti-missile systems; two 20mm close-range guns; four machine-gun positions; electronic warfare system. Up to six tanks or 30 armoured carriers; floodable well dock which can take four landing craft; flight deck for up to two medium-sized helicopters.
  • Complement: 325 plus up to 700 troops

RFA FORT VICTORIA

RFA Fort Victoria

  • Fleet-replenishment ship, providing stores and tanker facilities for Royal Navy vessels.
  • Launched 1990
  • 31,565 tonnes
  • 204m
  • Max speed: 22 knots
  • Four MSI defence systems; 30mm guns; two 20mm close-in weapon systems. Can take up to five Sea King or Merlin helicopters, and flight deck can be used as emergency landing facility for Harrier VTOL aircraft
  • Complement: 288 (max)

CHINOOK HELICOPTER

Chinook helicopter

  • Military transport helicopter
  • 23 tonnes
  • 16m
  • Max speed: 185mph (300km/h)
  • Can take two M-134 six-barrelled guns and M-60 machine gun
  • Can carry 54 troops or 11 tonnes of equipment, including two Land Rovers




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