Nearly all construction work in the country halts, among random acts of crime and violence

UK construction companies are scrambling to get their workers out of Libya as British surveyors report indiscriminate killings and muggings at knifepoint in the “complete anarchy” of the capital, Tripoli.

At the time of going to press Halcrow still had six expatriates in Tripoli and Aecom said it was evacuating staff from its offices in the capital and rebel-controlled Benghazi.

Mott MacDonald had evacuated its 10 expatriate staff, as had PH Warr (12), Gleeds (five), WSP (four) and Capita Symonds (three).

The uprising against Colonel Gaddafi’s regime has all but shut down construction on the country’s £36bn investment plan to 2012, and all offices were reported closed.

David Yaw, the regional manager for Halcrow, said that two British and four Pakistani employees were still in Tripoli looking for ways to leave the country after Emirates cancelled its services. “They are safe, in a quieter part of the city,” he said.

One project manager from Gleeds who flew out on Tuesday was held up at knifepoint and robbed of his money and phone on the way to the airport, which he described as in “chaos, with people running round in a panic.”

“Tripoli is in complete anarchy,” he said.

Another drove over 350 miles from Tobruk in the east of Libya to safety in Egypt.

One general manager working at a consultant in the country described how Libyan staff members had seen “ambulances full of mercenaries getting out and shooting everyone” as part of ambushes taking place against civilians.

Last weekend, Capita Symonds evacuated three British staff from an airport project in Benghazi, which on Tuesday it said had been bombed, possibly by the Libyan airforce.

However, in Cairo, Buro Happold staff have returned to its office after being evacuated, while Davis Langdon had flown seven staff back after evacuating 10 two weeks ago.

Atkins and Scott Wilson have reopened their offices in Bahrain.