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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Today's pop quiz 

1. How many days will it take for the evacuation of Canadians stranded in Lebanon to dissolve into complete chaos?
2. I said "days", but should I have said "hours"?
Now, I know a lot of hard-working civil servants are working hard on this, but how can anyone actually take such Canada's mythical evaluation plan seriously? Here's the plan:
The Canadian government has chartered seven ships with a combined capacity of 2,000 passengers. Girtel said about 30,000 people now have registered with the Canadian Embassy, but it's not clear how many of them want to leave. Ships will ferry back and forth between Lebanon and Cyprus until everyone who wants to leave has been picked up, she said. "People are being contacted and told the evacuation will start (Wednesday). The Canadian government has been working around the clock on this." She said that all registered Canadians will be contacted one way or another and the effort would continue until every single Canadian had been reached.
Here's the reality, and its only just started:
The drive to the harbour used to take 15 minutes but now would likely take an hour or two because the bridges have been bombed, said Chaar . . . Chaar said she has heard nothing from the embassy, has had great difficulty getting through, and has been able to obtain little information when she does get through . . . the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp., Beirut's top-rated radio station, has reported a sit-in by desperate Canadians at a Beirut hotel.
And so each cruise ship would have to make 15 (that's right, fifteen) round trips before everyone is evacuated. Given a day at each trip end for things like refueling, cleaning, restocking - if there is any fuel or food to be had -- and it will be the end of August before all the Caandians are out.
And when they get to Cyprus, what will happen? More chaos, I think. Other countries including the United States are also sending their people to Cyprus, and the CBC reported last night that no plans were in place to accomodate the evacuees -- Cyprus is at the height of its own tourist season now, and there are no hotel rooms available.
We're going to be reading lots of stories like this one:
A pregnant Hamilton, Ont., woman waiting to be evacuated from Beirut expressed her "sheer disappointment in the Canadian government" Wednesday, after she arrived at the port only to be turned away.
Lara Tcholakian, who was on holiday in Lebanon with her husband and one-year-old son, said Canadian officials called her to say she'd be among the first group of Canadian evacuees to leave Beirut and to be at the port at 8 a.m. "When we arrived it was total chaos - thousands of Canadians just waiting inside the gate where the port is, and they were just baking in the sun," she said in a phone call with the Canadian Press from her sister-in-law's home in Beirut.
A Canadian official announced over a loudspeaker that the ship would begin to accept pregnant women, families with young children and the elderly. Tcholakian, six months pregnant with her infant son in tow, was told she was not on the list. Canadian officials told her to go back "in a very abrupt and very rude way."
After nearly six hours at the port, Tcholakian, 33, and her family returned to a relative's house. She said the security situation in downtown Beirut, where the port is located, is so precarious that she resented being told to drive there unnecessarily.
"If you're going to go, you want to make sure you're going to be evacuated instead of driving back and forth and being told to come back later," she said.

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