HMS Cumberland has been ordered to make a second emergency mission to Libya to rescue more Britons from the crisis-hit country.
And Portsmouth-based destroyer HMS York could join her as the government ramps up its efforts to evacuate 500 Brits still caught up in the nation’s political turmoil.
Captain Steve Dainton from Waterlooville was due to sail Cumberland into Malta in the early hours of this morning to deliver around 200 people who were plucked to safety on Thursday. The evacuees included 68 British nationals.
The Type 22 frigate encountered rough seas on her voyage to the Maltese port of Valletta. The sailing conditions were described as ‘hideous’ by the Foreign Office yesterday.
‘A lot of people have been seasick but at least they are not in Libya any more,’ a Royal Navy spokesman added.
The government announced the Type 22 frigate, which is due to be decommissioned in April, will go straight back to the Libyan port of Benghazi to pick up more evacuees.
Prime Minister David Cameron also ordered York to sail to Libya to remain on stand-by. It is estimated that at least 500 British citizens are still stranded in the country, where 2,000 people are thought to have been killed as Colonel Gaddafi’s violent regime attempts to crush protesters.
Mr Cameron arrived back in Britain yesterday to take charge of the government’s response to the crisis, which has been criticised as being slow compared to other nations. He said: ‘We will do everything we can today and tomorrow to help those people and planning is under way to do just that.’
He urged all Britons to leave the country immediately and said: ‘I have asked HMS York to go into the area to help if necessary.’
The Type 42 destroyer had stopped off in Gibraltar on her way to a five-month deployment to the Falkland Islands when the order came.
‘York is now heading closer to Libya. She is available if the need arises and she is standing by,’ a navy spokesman said.