March 1st, 2011
02:30 PM ET

Nearly 150,000 flee Libya; UN reports crisis along borders

Ivan Watson and Moni Basu

Along The Libya-Tunisia Border (CNN) - A green flag fluttering in the wind designated Libyan territory. A short distance away, a red flag flew for Tunisia. In between, a mass of humanity waited in no man's land, desperate to flee escalating rebellion in one nation and cross into another that has already succeeded in toppling a dictator.

Periodically, a ripple flowed through the crowd of thousands of refugees as men took turns passing forward dazed and unconscious travelers, overwhelmed by a treacherous journey to the border and exposure to the elements.

Tunisian emergency workers rushed with fluorescent orange stretchers to evacuate the sick.

Chaos reigned along Libya's western border Tuesday as Tunisian police attempted to hold back a tide of people, mostly foreign workers caught in the storm of change blowing through the region.

There were simply too many people crossing too fast, overwhelming Tunisian authorities, aid agencies and volunteers trying to get a handle on what the United Nations called a humanitarian catastrophe in the making.

The U.N. refugee agency reported that nearly 150,000 people have crossed over from Libya into Tunisia and Egypt.

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