Father’s relief at fleeing country as trouble erupts

Construction worker John Lucas from Southsea who has just returned from Libya.
Construction worker John Lucas from Southsea who has just returned from Libya.

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A SOUTHSEA father is relieved to be home after witnessing the terror in Libya.

John Lucas, 42, realised he had to get out of the violence-hit country as soon as he could when his employer told him they were pulling down the shutters.

Mr Lucas was working in Tripoli as a general manager for Libyan construction firm, Dana General Contracting Company.

The business discovered, through word of mouth, that trouble was brewing on Sunday.

Moments later, a site they were building a hotel on was raided by armed gunmen who stripped the area of everything, from generators and vehicles to food.

His employers then told Mr Lucas his contract was cancelled with immediate effect, along with all the other workers.

Mr Lucas, from St James’s Road, who was reunited with son Charlie, five, and daughter Madeleine, three, said: ‘The company was battening down the hatches – all bets were off. I realised I had to get out as soon as I could.

‘I went with the two other Brits in the head office to get tickets home straight away and everywhere we looked people were panic-buying boxes of food from all the shops and markets.

‘You could cut the air with a knife it was so tense and everyone was just waiting for it to kick off.’

After waiting three hours to get a ticket to fly back to the UK the next day, Mr Lucas and his colleagues decided not to leave their apartment again until they were due to catch their flight.

He said: ‘We watched tracer bullets go off in Janzour in the west of the city and could hear the chanting from the Green Square and all I could think was that we had to get out of there. We took turns to sleep but at 3.30am I was woken up by the sound of shotgun fire in the square.

‘When the heavy weapons went off we legged it.

‘As we drove to the airport at around 5am the streets were empty, there wasn’t even a dog wandering about, but there were fires everywhere and blazing pictures of Gaddafi and green flags. But the airport was manic, everyone was just madly trying to get out of the country. If we hadn’t got our tickets on Sunday we would’ve been stuck there.

‘It’s such a relief to be back here now with my wife and kids at our home in Southsea, but I am still worried about all the other workers who are stuck out there.’