"U.S. Marines raced Monday to complete naval and air evacuation plans for thousands of Americans in Lebanon — an operation U.S. military official said carries “some risk.”
The Orient Queen, a commercial ship hired by the government, will sail into a Beirut port Tuesday escorted by the destroyer USS Gonzales and possibly the USS Iwo Jima. The cruise ship will try to rescue the estimated 5,000 citizens who are so far wanting to leave.
By late Monday only 64 individuals were known to have departed with U.S. support by helicopter.
The cruise ship, which can carry up to 750 people, will be forced to dodge an Israeli warship naval blockade and potential Hezbollah attacks that damaged two vessels Friday. The boat will take the citizens to the nearby island country Cyprus.
The Orient Queen will be forced to sail some of the journey alone as the warships intend to maintain a distance from Lebanon to avoid appearing to be a threatening force.
The trip from Beirut to the small island country can take up to five hours. The ship will likely make several trips before the entire operation is complete.
Joanne Nucho finished packing in the early morning hours Tuesday. Nucho, a student at American University in Beirut, said there was talk that Americans would have to pay a $300 evacuation fee, not be allowed to take laptops or cameras and be left to sleep on the streets of Cyprus.
At the State Department, McCormack said the cost of a massive evacuation was beyond U.S. resources. He said evacuated Americans would be asked to pay commercial rates, and if they did not have the money to promise to pay in the future."
"I can't even begin to outline the insanity here. There's some method in the madness, but oh so much madness in the methods.
I will be highly (if pleasantly) surprised if the evac ops for all countries involved go off without shots fired."