Emergency plan to evacuate Chinese

An airlift of Hong Kong Chinese residents from Jakarta was being considered by authorities last night as the anarchy in the Indonesian capital continued.

Two hundred extra airline seats a day were yesterday laid on by Cathay Pacific in response to the crisis and the Government last night said it might still charter a special evacuation flight.

The prospects of an international evacuation of Jakarta were increasing as Japan, Australia, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore and the Philippines said they were considering their final options. The United States told its citizens to "leave as soon as possible".

Secretary for Security Peter Lai Hing-ling said authorities had contacted an aircraft charter service and would order a special flight "if necessary".

Earlier, Cathay Pacific said all its flights were full until Sunday, but upgrading from two Airbus 340s a day to two Boeing 747s would accommodate 820 passengers - an extra 200. Yesterday, it carried 580 passengers out of Jakarta, with seats still available. Today, two flights with a Boeing 747 and an Airbus 340 could take 654 people.

"What seems to be happening is that everyone was registering their names with multiple airlines," said spokesman Andrew Herdman.

Up to 1,000 Hong Kong residents were expected to join 10,000 people reportedly heading for the Sukarno-Hatta airport trying to catch any flight.

Distressed Hong Kong residents in Jakarta and their relatives complained the embassy was not doing enough to transport them through road blocks and past bandits to the airport.

But a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said its 25 diplomats and 20 vehicles were busy helping Chinese nationals in trouble and could not provide a taxi service. More than 300 Chinese, including 170 from Hong Kong, had registered with the mission which kept in touch with them.

Hong Kong residents in Indonesia are being urged to register with the Chinese Embassy (6221-5761026 or 6221-5761027) or the Hong Kong Immigration Department's (2829-3010) 24-hour hotline.