BALTIMORE – The first plane carrying U.S. evacuees from Lebanon landed in the United States early Thursday, and eager family members and volunteers waited to greet them.
The flight, which was expected to carry 145 people, touched down at Baltimore-Washington International/Thurgood Marshall Airport at about 6:30 a.m., the Maryland Emergency Management Agency said.
Two other chartered flights were expected in the next couple of days.
Family members waited anxiously at the airport for the evacuees to disembark.
Sandie Choucair, of Abindgon, Md., was waiting for her husband Mohamad, who had been visiting his mother in Beirut. She said she was antsy and couldn’t wait to see him.
She said she spoke to him on the phone before he left and could hear bombs exploding.
“I could hear it over the phone and I just thought I was going to die a 100 times. It was an awful, awful experience to have to go through it,” Choucair said.
Gov. Robert Ehrlich said he has directed the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Human Resources and other state agencies to help the evacuees when they arrive from Cyprus. American Red Cross workers were at the airport to provide medical assistance and other services.
Mass evacuation of Americans
The flights are part of a mass U.S. evacuation from Lebanon following the start more than a week ago of Israeli airstrikes. An estimated 8,000 of the 25,000 U.S. citizens in Lebanon asked to be evacuated.
A luxury cruise ship, the eight-deck Orient Queen, arrived in Cyprus early Thursday carrying about 1,000 Americans. The ship, which arrived at the port of Larnaca after a nine-hour trip, was the start of a massive relay to evacuate thousands of U.S. citizens from the war-torn area.