Sunderland teacher stuck in Libya

Ian Smith up Mt Cameroon
Ian Smith up Mt Cameroon
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A WEARSIDE teacher is stranded overseas amidst the Libyan conflict.

Ian Smith has been living in Libya for two years, teaching English to people working in the oil business.

But the 44-year-old, from Penshaw, left for Cameroon on holiday just days before trouble flared and, with only a return ticket to Tripoli, is now stranded in the African country – with all of his belongings still in Libya.

Ian, who is studying for his masters degree at Sunderland University, said he was left stunned by how quickly the situation escalated.

“Tripoli was its normal self with everyone going about their usual business when I left.

“I was staying with my Libyan boss and we had a few nights out. The atmosphere was fine, as usual.

“It’s usually one of the safest African capitals you can find yourself in.

“The people are very friendly and welcoming. I even went to the Libya v Benin match at the national stadium.

“I can’t believe how I was walking in Green Square only two weeks ago, and now Gaddafi is hosting his last stand there.”

Ian, who worked at Nissan for 15 years before leaving to teach, added: “I think it’s awful what is happening in Libya now, and I hope it is resolved sooner rather than later.

“I’ve received so many messages of concern from friends and family back in Sunderland and this has made me realise how lucky I am.”

Ian, who is in Yaounde, had a ticket to fly back to Tripoli on Saturday, but with the situation the way it is in Libya, he said he was not taking the flight, although all his belongings are still there.

“I have actually secured some teaching work in Yaounde which would tide me over until it is safe to return to Libya,” he said

“My heart goes out to the normal folk of Libya, as they are a good bunch of people and have been nothing but courteous and polite to me in my time there.”

OIL and gas industry worker Michael Grimes is now safe at home with his family after being rescued from his Libyan desert camp by the SAS.

But the 64-year-old, who carries out non-destructive testing on equipment for a Libyan firm, said he was disappointed to have been forced to flee before completing his six-week stint.

“The rescue was absolutely fantastic,” said Michael, from Ledbury Road, Sunderland.

“It was just like being in a movie, especially when I saw the Hercules and the SAS team.”

Michael, who is married to Alicja and has two children, Jonathan, 22, and Clarissa, 20, said he did not fear for himself, but knew his family would be worried.

“When I was there I felt safe. I didn’t feel threatened at all. Libyan people are very nice – they’re not at war with us, they’re just against Gaddafi.”