Home from Libya

1 March 2011, 12:32 | Updated: 8 March 2011, 12:18

Heart's been talking to a man from Milton Keynes about his escape from Libya.

51-year-old Paul Ellis, who lives in Two Mile Ash, had been working as an engineer in Benghazi for the last 18 months and had planned to stay until the autumn. But, after fighting broke-out in the country, he was evacuated on HMS Cumberland at the end of last week. 

Mr Ellis was on the Navy warship for about 36-hours before arriving in Malta. After a short stop over to freshen up, he then boarded a flight and landed back in the UK on Sunday afternoon.

A week before he managed to get out of the country, the apartments where Mr Ellis had been living were raided by gangs of armed men. The looters took almost everything they could, including cars, laptops, clothes, money and furniture.

Mr Ellis told Heart:

"It started with them kicking the doors in to a lot of the rooms. We decided we'd just open our doors and just gave them whatever they wanted. But [we were] terrified."

After the weekend of raids, Mr Ellis and his colleagues were moved to their employers' offices, but after about an hour it became clear they wouldn't be safe there. It was then they were moved to a hotel where they were given private security and armed guards. Later that week they travelled by mini-bus to the port in Benghazi to board HMS Cumberland.

Mr Ellis said it was an eventful trip, with many people suffering from sea-sickness:

"There were about 200 people on the boat. It was a mixture of Britons, some Filipinos, some Ukranian nurses and some Canadians. It was quite a mix. Priority was British passport holders - we automatically had a place on the boat. But they took everybody who turned up for the boat. A lot of people had got nothing - they didn't have a passport and they [the Navy] sorted out everything."

Mr Ellis says although his family sometimes struggled to get information about his safety - he doesn't think the rescue effort could have been much better:

"We couldn't communicate with the outside world at all. We could only communicate to Tripoli on and off. It was very difficult to organise anything and to organise to get such a large number of people out, must have been a nightmare to be quite honest."

And now he's back home with his wife and family - Mr Ellis says it will still take him some time to recover from his last couple of weeks in the country:

"I'm a lot better now, but I'm still recovering a little bit from the ordeal. It's not something you get over straight away, but I'll be ok."