LINTHICUM, Md. – A second plane of American evacuees from battle-scarred Lebanon landed early Friday outside Washington, bringing travelers eager to be home after days of heavy bombings and house-shaking explosions.
About 240 people were aboard the 747 that arrived at Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport outside Washington about 1:20 a.m. from Cyprus, said Elyn Jones, spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Human Resources.
On Thursday morning, about 150 people landed at 6:30 a.m. at BWI. The passengers, the first to be flown back to the U.S., traveled from Cyprus to Manchester, England, and then to Baltimore in about 12 hours as part of a massive evacuation effort.
"Everybody was so glad and really eased to be back home, because as soon as you were on the plane you felt like you were relieved," said Sami Lahan, of Detroit, Mich., who returned from Beirut on Thursday's flight with his wife and daughter.
Like others on the plane, he described terrifying nights of bombing that shook homes and rattled windows. "You never know when they are going to strike," he said.
Martha Khayat, who was staying near the heavily targeted Beirut airport, said she didn't sleep for days because of the noisy, ground-shaking bombardment.
"I had to open all the windows because I thought the windows were going to blow," she said.
Maryland is expecting as many as six more flights in the coming days.
Officials said an estimated 8,000 of the 25,000 U.S. citizens in the country wanted out. The Orient Queen cruise ship arrived in Cyprus earlier Thursday carrying about 1,000 Americans.
U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey D. Feltman said the evacuation to Cyprus would swell to up to 2,000 Americans a day, both by sea and by helicopter.
Maryland made medical care available for the evacuees, said Jeff Welsh, a spokesman for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency and the USO opened its airport lounge. Telephones and a place for people to drop off children briefly to give parents a chance to make travel plans were available. But most of those arriving asked only for help making connecting flights to their homes.
After going through customs, the evacuees trickled calmly into the waiting area where a swarm of journalists waited to speak with them. Passengers said they were grateful to the U.S. government for getting them out of what they described as a chaotic environment. Many of those on the plane said they were Lebanese-Americans who had been visiting family or friends in Lebanon.
"It was very smooth and not scary at all," said Cindy Awaijane, describing her travels, which included a helicopter ride to Cyrpus before boarding the airplane.