Friends in High Places

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FREETOWN, Sierra Leone: While Sierra Leone's capital continues to degenerate into a free-for-all among looters, mutinous soldiers and terrified locals, foreigners in the city are getting out. Shuttling furiously between a Freetown harbor hotel and the USS Kearsarge waiting 20 miles off the coast, U.S. Marine helicopters evacuated 843 foreigners, among them some 300 Americans, in batches of up to 55 while Nigerian peacekeeping troops stood guard at the hotel entrance. The U.S. Embassy has already shut down its operations in the capital. Embassy staff were headed for Conakry, the capital of neighboring Guinea, said embassy spokeswoman Anne Wright as she boarded the day's final helicopter. At least 22 other governments had asked the United States to move their nationals out, Wright said; there was not room enough for all. "We are very sorry we could not have everybody on board who wanted to go," she said. "We hope we have got those who have no way to sustain themselves here."