Some 100 Maltese and foreigners managed to make it on an Air Malta flight out of Tripoli this afternoon and said that their biggest worry was not knowing what was going on.

"We did not know what was going on, there was a total blackout, we only got to know from our families when they managed to reach us on the phone, there was no internet," a worker said.

The flight from Tripoli arrived some two-and-a-half hours late, much to the relief of relatives, some of whom were visibly nervous and hugged their family members when they emerged at the arrivals hall.

Some on the returned workers said they had heard shooting in the streets while others said all was calm in their areas of Tripoli.

A man who was waiting for five workers at the airport said that employers were trying to get their workers on any plane that could take them out of Tripoli. It was not important where the plane went.

One woman said that she went to Tripoli just two days ago to start a career, but managed to grab the flight back today as soon as she heard about the trouble. However she hoped to go back to Libya once matters calm down.

An employer said some 3,000 people were waiting for flights at Tripoli airport.

The situation, he said, was chaotic. Many airport workers had not turned up for work and some passengers were helping load luggages on aircraft.

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