China evacuates hundreds of workers in Libya to Malta

Malta (REUTERS) - China has evacuated several hundred workers from Libya and is taking them by ship to Malta, the head of the Malta Civil Service, Mario Cutajar, said on Wednesday.

He said the Maltese government was arranging temporary accommodation for the workers and was preparing for the eventuality of a bigger evacuation from the North African country if the unrest there continues to grow.

MR Cutajar is heading a crisis centre to cater for the fallout of the situation in Libya.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Philippines said it had chartered a ship to take up to 1,000 Filipinos to Malta. MR Cutajar said 150 foreign workers, mostly Filipinos, had arrived in Malta on Tuesday on flights from Mitiga airport near Tripoli.

On Monday the United States said its ambassador to Libya, who was evacuated on Saturday, will be temporarily based in Malta.

The island played a pivotal role in the evacuation of thousands of workers during the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, when countries including China, the Philippines and India chartered ships to transport workers there before they returned to their home countries.

A British warship also used Malta as a base for crossings to Libya to evacuate Europeans.