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U.S. ferry from Libya arrives in Malta

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Evacuated American: Glad I'm out of Libya
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • More than 300 evacuees, mostly Americans, traveled on the U.S.-chartered Maria Dolores
  • "I saw carnage," an unnamed evacuee says of clashes in Libya
  • Another describes her joy at seeing Libyans rise up
  • An oil and gas technology company also evacuates its employees

Valletta, Malta (CNN) -- A U.S.-chartered ferry from Libya arrived in Malta on Friday carrying more than 300 evacuees, mostly Americans, who offered dramatic first-hand accounts of the chaos and deadly violence unfolding in a country spiraling out of control.

"I saw carnage," said an American evacuee in Valletta. He declined to give his name as he has family in Libya still and fears for their safety.

"The army was using heavy machine guns and automatic rifles against little kids that were carrying nothing more than pebbles. ... They shot first. They didn't ask questions," he said, describing a crackdown in Tripoli.

It was unclear exactly when and where within the city the violence took place. Reports suggest that possibly hundreds of protesters have been killed.

"There were a lot of injured and dead people on the streets," the evacuee said.

Of the roughly 338 people who arrived in Malta on the U.S.-chartered Maria Dolores, more than half were Americans. They were met at the dock by first aid and embassy workers, who were expected to help people exchange money and find places to stay.

Bad weather in Tripoli had delayed the departure of the ferry for two days.

Live shots of the dock showed passengers walking off of the vessel, toting luggage and small children. At least one woman was carried in a wheelchair.

Judith Drotar, another evacuee, spoke by phone. She teaches at an American school in Libya, where she has lived for four years.

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RELATED TOPICS
  • Libya
  • Moammar Gadhafi
  • Malta

"We're just happy to be out of an environment that we didn't understand," she said. "I think the biggest problem for all of us was that everything happened so quickly that we no longer felt that we could trust our instincts."

She described hearing gunshots at night in a suburb of Libya's capital.

"We were all just desperate to get out because we didn't know what was going to happen," the teacher said.

Governments around the world, as well as companies, were making a run to get their people out of volatile Libya. Schlumberger, an oil and gas technology company, said Friday that it had evacuated 300 people, including 200 employees and their families.

Libya's uprising, after four decades of Moammar Gadhafi's ironclad rule, took root first in the nation's eastern province. Libya's second-largest city, Benghazi, and other smaller eastern towns are no longer within Gadhafi's hold.

But closer to Tripoli, where the dictator maintains some support, protesters were still being met with brute force.

CNN could not confirm reports for many areas in Libya. The government maintains tight control of communications and has not responded to repeated requests for access to the country. CNN has interviewed numerous witnesses, including Yusra Tekbali, another evacuee on the U.S.-chartered ferry. An American of Libyan descent, she arrived with several family members.

"On one part, I'm so happy because I never thought I would see Libyans expressing themselves this way. ... They are risking so much," she said.

Tekbali described chaos in the streets and the terror of not knowing what security forces would do next. She said she does not know when, or even if, she will return to Libya.

"Libyans know what this regime is capable, of but I think for the first time the world is actually seeing it," Tekbali said.