A ferry sent by the U.S. to bring American citizens out of Libya is finally on its way to Malta, leaving just after 6:30 a.m. EST Friday morning.
The State Department says 300 people are on the ferry -- more than half of them Americans.
For two days, rough weather in the Mediterranean Sea, with waves up to 16 feet high, had made it impossible for the ferry to leave.
One American who manged to leave on his own told his story to "Early Show" co-anchor Chris Wragge Friday.Kyle White, a 23-year-old American who'd been working in Tripoli for the past nine months in construction services, left Libya last week and was in San Diego when interviewed by Wragge.
White said he's never felt threatened before his last week in Tripoli. He said he saw things change in the city last Thursday
"There is what's called 'The Day of Rage,' and that's where all of the protesters in Benghazi took to the streets to demonstrate their anger at the regime. And what had happened, actually, I had friends in Benghazi, and I had been in constant communication with them. The following day, on Friday, there were calls to protest again, but this time carrying the bodies that the government had killed the previous day. And what happened is it progressed and I made a commitment with my friend to call every four hours, and every four hours that I called it just seemed to be progressing, and things got worse and worse. Later that night, I was hearing radio broadcasts that the city of Benghazi was taken over by the opposition group. And they were releasing statements, in Arabic, stating that they had tanks, and that they were calling for all regions to march to Tripoli and to take over the regime in Tripoli."
White decided to leave work and go to the airport.
The airport, at that time, was "actually quite calm," he said.
"There weren't too many people," he said. "That morning was pretty hectic. I woke up and I already had my bags packed, based on the things I was hearing in Arabic. I went to the ATM to pull out some money, and found out that the whole banking system in all of Libya was closed. And no one could withdraw any money. And at that point, I started to see mercenaries patrolling my neighborhood, and I made the decision to get out. I actually left my company and I did not tell anyone I was going to the airport. And then I got to the airport and made my decision to leave the country."
White flew to Rome and then to San Diego. He left a number of his co-workers behind, but he's been in touch with them.
"I've been able to get to them on the phone, and there's a lot of people that are very scared," he said. "There are some people who have made it back, thankfully, but we still do have people there on the ferry, and they're really scared for their life."
Since his co-workers boarded the ferry, White said, he has lost contact with them.
However, he added, "I do have local friends who live there, and they said things are very bad. My friends say they're very scared for the lives of them and their family. The men are standing by the doors of the houses, protecting anyone who may enter. My friends tell me that the government is sending mercenaries door-to-door killing families, and that there are thousands and thousands of people who have died in Tripoli alone."
But has the violence in the country shaded his view of the region?
White said he still would entertain going back to Libya.
"The past nine months have been awesome," he said. "The Libyan people have taken me in and they've been my family these past nine months. So, there's without a doubt that I would go back to Tripoli and Libya in general."