Evacuated Swedes back from Lebanon

The first two planes with nearly 300 Swedish citizens fleeing Lebanon landed at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport on Monday. Other planes are set to arrive throughout the day.

Among those who landed this morning was the El Zein family. The Västerås family was visiting relatives in Beirut, close to the city’s bombed airport.

The family of six rented a car and fled to Syria when the Israeli attacks escalated. After 12 hours in the car, traveling over pock-marked roads, the El Zeins arrived in Damascus Saturday night and were the first Swedes from Lebanon to make it to the Swedish Embassy.

“We made it there in the middle of the night, but the embassy was closed, as opposed to the Danish embassy which was full of activity,” said Veronica El Zein. “We stood and banged on the doors.

The family was helped a short time after by Swedish embassy staff.

“It feels very nice to be home, but at the same time it is painful. We usually yearn to go back to Lebanon,” she said.

Representatives from the Swedish Foreign Ministry were waiting for the first plane’s arrival. After speaking to many of those who arrived on the flight, Ministry representative Carl-Magnus Hyltenius summed up how many thought the Foreign Ministry dealt with the situation.

“It was mixed comments,” he said. “A portion was pretty critical, a portion was positive. They have been under a lot of strain, so I can understand how some are critical.”

Hundreds of others are set to arrive in Sweden on Monday. Five evacuated Swedes landed at Bromma airport Sunday night.

Others will be transported from Lebanon to Syria by the Swedish government. Additional representatives from the Foreign Ministry and the Swedish Rescue Services Agency will be sent to Cyprus to help deal with the evacuation. A large portion will be sent to Beirut to strengthen the consulate and aid in evacuations.

Some 16 buses with 50 seats each have passed the border and are in Syria. Several ferries could carry 1,600 people to Cyprus and Turkey.

Some 4,500 Swedish citizens were thought to be in Lebanon. It is not known when all will be evacuated. The Swedish government is paying for all evacuation costs. Nearly 57.5 million kronor has been put up so far by the government.