A BLACKPOOL man has made a miraculous escape from civil-war torn Libya.
Christopher Dixon, 45, had been working on fire safety projects in the oil town of Ghani when the country descended into violent chaos amid anti-government protests.
With all phone lines down – and thousands in the crisis-hit African country feared to have been killed – Mr Dixon’s distraught family back home in North Shore did not know how he would escape.
But a chance emergency landing by a plane in the Sahara desert outside Ghani enabled Mr Dixon – who works for US contractor Halliburton – to hitch a ride home.
The pilot, who had put down in the desert due to bad weather, offered help to an international group of workers and flew seven of them 400km to Tripoli International Airport.
From there the workers got on flights out of the country.
Mr Dixon’s delighted parents John and Christine, who lives in Bexley Avenue, North Shore, endured many sleepless nights as they tried to find out what was happening.
Dad John said: “We’re just delighted Chris is safe.
“We’d been waiting to hear from him - the situation out there was impossible - then we got a call from him in Malta to say he was safe.”
Mr Dixon’s mother added: “It was just so lovely to hear from Chris after just not knowing what was going on. We weren’t sleeping.
“There was no way he could contact us. He’s worked in some horrible places.”
Much of Libya is now in the hands of anti-government forces, and the UN World Food Programme said vital supplies are running out.
Fighting has raged for the past week between anti-government forces and troops and militiamen loyal to Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who has been in power for 42 years.
Col Gaddafi’s troops are reported to have opened fire on protesters in Tripoli. The UN said unconfirmed reports indicate thousands may have been killed or injured in the country.
Mr Dixon, who was an apprentice at ICI in Thornton and former Blackpool and The Fylde College student, paid tribute to the pilot of the small Dash rescue aircraft.
Dad John added: “Chris said the pilot was brilliant .
“He got them to the airport which he described as being like ‘gang warfare’ and through departures onto a plane to Malta.
“It was just so worrying not knowing - at one point before this he had to go to an oil rig to call us by satellite phone because communications were blocked.”
If the plane had not have landed, Mr Dixon had a daring plan for him and his colleagues to drive 400km across desert with few roads to neighbouring Tunisia.
He is now heading back to his wife Sabina and two-year-old son Michael who live in Baku, Azerbaijan.